Deep in the Clouds 碧羅雪山
Contemporary village drama
2010, colour, 1.85:1, 98 mins
Directed by Liu Jie (劉傑)
By Derek Elley
Wed, 23 June 2010, 01:21 AM (HKT)
Loose, ethnic-minority drama is a step backward dramatically for director Liu Jie after his tight, city-set Judge. Beyond festivals, some specialised European TV potential.
A remote village in Nujiang prefecture, Yunnan province, southwestern China, the present day. Superstition still rules among the Lisu-ethnic inhabitants, who believe they are descended from the bears in the mountains and are strongly influenced by the pronoucements of the oldest man in the village, the 100-plus-years-old Duoliba (Ji'adi), who sits counting sweetcorn to measure his remaining days. Duoliba's son and elder grandson went across the border into Burma to look for work seven years ago and have not been heard of since. Considering the latter dead, Duoliba wants younger grandson Dialu (Wangpuze) to marry his brother's wife. Dialu actually loves Ji'ni (Nazhiye), but she is under pressure from her father Sandapo (Heipi) to marry the wealthy but drunken Ada (Pudesuo) for financial reasons. While Dialu ponders whether to disobey Duoliba and go to Burma to find his father and brother, tensions rise in the cash-strapped village, exacerbated by Duoliba's refusal to follow government pressure to be rehoused elsewhere.
Already a festival favourite for his previous features, Courthouse on the Horseback 馬背上的法庭 (2006) and Judge 透析 (2009), director LIU Jie 劉傑 returns to Yunnan province, in which the former was set, for his third movie, the far looser Deep in the Clouds 碧羅雪山 (2010). Acted by non-professionals, and often looking like it, the film begins with a long sequence of a local wedding that's like an ethnic documentary — in this case, set among the Lisu ethnic minority which makes up almost half of the non-Han inhabitants of Nujiang (Nu River) prefecture, a famously picturesque, mountainous region up against the border with Burma. Though the performances by the two leads, Wangpuze 汪普則 and Nazhiye 娜芝葉, are engaging in their simplicity, many of the others are okay at best, and not helped by the discursive, unfocused script in the first half and Liu's apparent indecisiveness over whether he's making an ethnic-minority documentary or a dramatic feature.
In essence, the film is about the age-old clash between tradition and modernity, superstition and practicality, with the Lisu characters not portrayed very sympathetically and two young sweethearts caught between opposing forces. Given the vast number of Chinese movies centred on non-Han minorities, this is not particularly original, and Liu's movie — based on a recent novel by Hani-minority cultural writer Cun Wenxue (存文學) — doesn't make much of a case for itself with its slow development in the first hour and choppy rhythm. Liu's city-set Judge, though often artificially slow and self-absorbed, promised a change of direction away from rural portraits with its clever story of a man trying to escape a death sentence by exploiting a loophole in the law and the unhappy judge involved in the process. But Deep in the Clouds is way more conventional and uninvolving.
ContactSales: 3C Films, Beijing (email@example.com)
Premiere: Shanghai Film Festival (International Competition), 17 Jun 2010. Theatrical release: TBA.
Presented by Guangxi Film Studio (CN). Produced by Guangxi Film Studio (CN), 3C Films (CN),** in association with** Yunnan Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture Committee, Yunnan Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture People's Government. Executive producer: Li Huarong. Producer: Lu Ruixiang.
Script: Cun Wenxue, Liu Jie. Novel: Cun Wenxue (Bi luo xue shan, 2008). Photography: Harrison Zhang. Editing supervision: Liao Ching-song, Zhou Xinxia, Cheng Long. Editing: Zhu Liyun. Music: Lim Giong. Art direction: Yu Lihai. Costumes: Luo Fen. Sound: Yang Xin. Executive director: Zhao Xiang.
Cast: Ji'adi (Duoliba, the grandfather), Wangpuze (Dialu, his grandson), Nazhiye (Ji'ni), Heipi (Sandapo, Ji'ni's father), Hu Chunhua (Mupa, Ji'ni's elder brother), Li Chunhua (Aya), Feng Chunmei (Mupa's daughter-in-law), Na Chunping (A'nanyi), Dengsini (Hengma), Nihaluo (A'ni), Pudesuo (Ada), Cheasi (Village head), Li Chunyi (Township cadre).