Road movie is a moderate marvel to watch.
Selected for the Cannes Film Festival “Un Certain Regard” section, Yang Chaoâ€™s directorial debut shows the poise of a veteran filmmaker with a visual aesthetic that oozes with Yasujiro Ozu and which paces itself like Hou Hsiao Hsien oeuvre. With a narrative that is vacant and an aesthetic that is exquisite, this is the sort of film that is not merely concerned with character but also with the relation between space and time.
Passages commences with a splendid long-take from the p.o.v of the head of a cargo train pulling into its final stop â€“ and then out comes the filmâ€™s young, impressionable entrepreneurs – a pair of aimless failing students trekking by foot, boat, bike and train out into Chinaâ€™s countryside searching for a new hope in the form of a rare mushroom and easy riches. Despite finding failure â€“ the driftwood pairing find solace in one another with their oddly designed support system which is fueled with their childlike, sister-brother behavior and guided by the very little intuition that they manage to have – it is as rare as a flower in bloom in the month of December.
While the narrative is unimpressionable and paper-thin, viewers can settle on Chaoâ€™s fusion of organically shot beautiful compositions that comes with slowly paced long tracking shots that dedicates the story arc. This two hour examination of the Chinese lost generation is a travelogue where the road metaphorically addresses their futureâ€™s outcome. By filming in such a convention, it allows for things to happen or not happen, sometimes without meaning and always with a sense of humor that is only traceable for those who wait for the awkward moments. While not much takes place in beautifully composed Cannes winner, Chaoâ€™s directorial debut in Passages has more to say about being part of the lost generation than what a film like (Garden State) can do.
Viewed in Mandarin with French subtitles.
Viewed at the Montreal World Film Festival.