This week: A noir gangster film from Hong Kong; restored cinematic classics from China and Taiwan; Kunqu opera; poetry of Chinese factory workers; a Chinese American novelist who describes her book as Better Luck Tomorrow meets Fresh Off the Boat; a film that won an award at Berlinale; a film adaptation by a rising director of a book that won the Mao Dun prize; new exhibitions on Mah Jongg at a Jewish heritage museum; seven artists and a artist collective at the Guggenheim; three Ai Weiwwei shows; and more…
November 12 – The making of Museum of Chinese in America’s current exhibition, Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy
November 10 – 17 – Chinese documentaries at DOC NYC
November 17 – Composer Lei Liang. at Columbia University
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THIS WEEK’S EVENTS
1) Trivisa 《树大招风》 – Taking its name from the Buddhist idea of the “three root poisons” of greed, anger and ignorance, Trivisa tells the tale of a chance encounter between three gangsters plying the border between Hong Kong and China just before the British administrative handover of Hong Kong in the summer of 1997. This intricate tale was filmed by three young directors who were mentored by veteran auteur Johnnie To. Trivisa cleverly interweaves plans gone awry, missed opportunities and dead ends, reimagining not just the end of an era, but the explosive beginnings of 21st-century Hong Kong.
Dir. by Jevons Au, Frank Hui, Vicky Wong
2016. 96 min. DCP. Color.
In Cantonese, Mandarin and Thai, with English subtitles
Hollywood Reporter says the film is an “engaging, reflective, and topical criminal thriller” which the directors claim to be a trilinear allegory about the source of Hong Kong’s decline after its return to Chinese sovereignty.
Friday, November 4, 6:30 PM
2) Legend of the Mountain 《山中传奇》– Presented in a new digital restoration, the three-hour director’s cut of King Hu’s Legend of the Mountain has its North American premiere in MoMA’s festival of newly restored an preserved films, To Save and Project, following on its successful debut at the Venice Film Festival. Hu, a master of the wuxia swordplay subgenre of martial arts cinema, is perhaps best known for Come Drink with Me, Dragon Gate Inn, and A Touch of Zen. For his late-period Legend of the Mountain, Hu turned instead to a supernatural fable set during the 11th-century Sung Dynasty, drawing upon Pu Songling’s classic 18th-century collection Stories from a Chinese Studio 《聊斋志异》 and filming independently on location in the South Korean countryside. A scholar-errant, tasked with translating and safeguarding a Buddhist sutra involving the afterlife, loses his grasp of space and time as he wanders through a strange, haunting mountain landscape. Along the way, he encounters temptress ghosts and Taoist priests, ancient abandoned fortresses and inns, and a delirium of color, sound, and silence. 4K digital restoration by the Taiwan Film Institute. DCP.
Here’s a clip from the non-restored version:
Friday, November 4, 7 PM
Wednesday, November 9, 7 PM
3) Wang Xiaobo: A Fiction Writer’s Existential Poetics – Wang Xiaobo (1952-1997) started writing back in the 1970s but remained an outsider to the Chinese literary scene throughout the 1980s. He only started gaining attention in the 1990s as the author of a body of highly unorthodox and controversial works of fiction and essay writing. And it was only after his untimely death in 1997 that his most important fictional works, entitled The Golden Age, The Silver Age and The Bronze Age, were published in collected volumes as The Trilogy of Our Time, which have had an everlasting impact upon young Chinese readers over the last twenty years. Although primarily hailed as a fiction writer, Wang Xiaobo discussed poetry, poetics, philosophy, translation, and world literature extensively in his writing, which offered a stellar example of contemporary existential lyricism that might also alter our own understanding of what poetry is or can be regardless of the language it is written in.
Part of the series Expanding the Boundaries of Chinese Poetry
Saturday, November 5, 2 PM
4) River 《河》 – The rich complexity of human relationships is central to this story of a young girl, her father, and his father, who each long to strengthen their bonds, but find themselves fighting the weight of personal and national histories. Tibetan writer-Director Sonthar Gyal (The Sun-Beaten Path) makes breathtaking use of the Tibetan plains and mountains as an epic backdrop to this intimate family drama.
Dir. by Sonthar Gyal
2015. 94 min. DCP. Color.
In Tibetan, with English subtitles
Hollywood Reporter loved the cinematography and says its exploration of the complexity of human relations is “marvelously understated”.
Saturday, November 5, 2:00 PM
5) Stage Sisters 《舞台姐妹》 –
In this lush backstage drama set in the decades leading up to 1949, a pair of Chinese opera actresses sing their way from the countryside to the city and back again. Caught up in Cultural Revolution power struggles, veteran director Xie Jin’s portrait of female solidarity and awakening political consciousness was banned almost immediately but revived in the 1980s as a masterpiece of Chinese filmmaking, and is now newly released in this magnificent 4K digital restoration.
Dir. by Xie Jin
1964. 112 min. 4K DCP. Color.
In Mandarin, with English subtitles
Restoration by L’Immagine Ritrovata for the Shanghai International Film Festival
The New York Times reviewed the film when it was part of (Re)Inventing China: A New Cinema for a New Society, 1949 – 1966, a sidebar to the New York Film Festival that presented films released between establishment of the People’s Republic of China and the beginning of the Cultural Revolution.
Saturday, November 5, 6:30 PM
6) 400 Years of Legacy: Tang Xianzu Meets William Shakespeare in Kunqu – The year 2016 marks the 400th anniversary of the death of two prominent playwrights in two separate cultural spheres: Tang Xianzu (1550-1616) in China and William Shakespeare (1564-1616) in England. To commemorate this momentous occasion and to promote intercultural understanding and exchange, the Shanghai Kunqu Theatre Troupe, an internationally renowned theatre company from Shanghai, China, at the invitation of Kunqu Society in New York, will present a free program of two different performances dedicated to Tang and Shakespeare that showcase the troupe’s artistic excellence.
The program of two different performances will be presented at Hunter’s Kaye Playhouse on the following two dates:
• Saturday, November 5, 2016, 7 p.m.: The Peony Pavilion
• Sunday, November 6, 2016, 2 p.m.: Kunqu Classics and Macbeth
The first performance will present Tang’s Peony Pavilion, a play that is often compared to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. In Peony Pavilion, however, the star-crossed lovers eventually overcome death by their devotion to each other.
The second performance will consist of a selection of artistically demanding and popular scenes from the troupe’s extensive repertoire, including two scenes from their adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
Saturday, November 5, 7 PM
Sunday, November 6, 2 PM
7) Iron Moon: The Poetry of Chinese Workers: Screening and Discussion – Iron Moon 《我的诗篇》 , a documentary directed by Xiaoyu Qin and Feiyue Wu recounts the story of an assembly line worker in an Apple factory who committed suicide at the young age of 24, leaving behind 200 poems of despair—“I swallowed an iron moon…..”; a guileless lathe operator who is rebuffed at every turn, living in the world of his poetry; a female clothing factory worker who lives in poverty but writes poetry rich in dignity and love; a coalminer who works deep in the earth year round, trying to contact and make peace with the spirits of his dead coworkers through his poetry; and a goldmine demolitions worker who blasts rocks several kilometers into mountainsides to support his family, while writing poetry to carry the weight of his fury and affections—“My body carries three tons of dynamite….” They could be any of the 350 million workers in China, and yet these five are also poets. Using poetry as a tool to chip away at the ice of silence, they express the hidden life stories and experiences of people living at the bottom of the society. This is one story behind the sudden rise of China, and a mournful song of global capitalism.
Visit the film’s Kickstarter page for more information
Wednesday, November 9, 7 PM
Room 306, 194 Mercer Street
8) Heartbreak and the Fractured Family with Vanessa Hua and Janice Y.K. Lee – Dear melancholic second-generation Asian peeps! Come through for a special reading featuring two critically acclaimed fiction writers reading shrewd, witty books about love and infidelity, motherhood and immigrant families. Featuring bestselling novelist Janice Y.K. Lee and Vanessa Hua. Lee’s new novel explores three women trying to find their place and deal with childlessness, motherhood, and family in a Hong Kong expat community. Hua describes her book of immigrant families, lies, and secrets as “Better Luck Tomorrow meets Fresh Off the Boat. Model minorities behaving badly.”
Wednesday, November 9, 7 PM
Asian American Writers’ Workshop, 112 W. 27th Street
9) Literature of the Six Dynasties Period: A Ben Wang Lecture Series (Part 1) – In conjunction with Art in a Time of Chaos, the grand exhibition of cultural relics from the Six Dynasties Period at China Institute, Ben Wang, Senior Lecturer of Language and Humanity of the Institute, offers a special course on literature of the Six Dynasties Period. Lives and works by representative poets of the period as well as the quintessential spirit of famed texts A New Account of Tales of the World (世說新語) and Zhaoming’s Collection of Literary Works will be discussed in this three-session series.
Thursday, November 10, 6:30 PM
ONGOING FILMS AND SHOWS
1) Someone to Talk To 《一句顶一万句》– An adaptation of Liu Zhenyun’s award-winning novel One Sentence is Worth Ten Thousand, produced by Bill Kong. The novel, which won the Mao Dun Literature Prize after it was published in 2008, revolves around a divorced woman and her married younger brother and deals with loneliness and alienation in contemporary Chinese society. The film marks the feature debut of award-winning short filmmaker Liu Yulin, who is adapting her father’s work. A New York University film graduate, Liuas short film Door God (2014) won a silver medal at the 41st Student Academy Awards and was selected by Cannes.
Opens at AMC Empire 25 November 4.
2) Crosscurrent 《长江图》 – Mysterious, sublime and elegiac, director Yang Chao’s odyssey blends breathtaking images with fantasy, poetry and history to create a complex magical universe. From the Shanghai metropolis to the snow-capped Tibet mountain, Gao Chun steers his cargo up the Yangtze, a river that has nurtured a centuries-old civilization. He comes across An Lu, a beautiful woman who appears in a different identity at every port recorded by a poetry book. Longing for her company, he realizes she gradually turns younger as he journeys upstream. He starts to wonder whether An Lu is supernatural or he is traveling not only in space but also in time. After passing a pagoda that reverberates Buddha’s voice, a flooded town reappeared elsewhere, the grandiose Three Gorges Dam and many other places where lives have been transformed, he finally arrives at the start of the Yangtze, where he unveils the secret of his past and An Lu.
The film screened at MoMA earlier this year, and cinematographer Mark Lee Ping-Bing won a Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution at Berlinale 2016.
3) Mr. Donkey 《驴得水》 – From the same team that brought you Goodbye Mr. Loser comes the hilarious dark comedy Mr. Donkey, adapted from their play of the same name. Set in a rural village in the early ’40s, where a group of idealistic academics run a school. To raise funds, the teachers trick the government into paying a salary to their local pack animal. When a bureaucrat arrives, the faculty scrambles to find someone who can pretend to be this “Mr. Donkey.” (LA Times)
The LA Times says: “[T]he movie is deeply flawed but also fascinating. There’s a good story here, woven between the thudding jokes.”
CURRENT ART EXHIBITIONS
Opening and Newly Added:
1) Project Mah Jongg (Museum of Jewish Heritage , 10/15/16 – Jan 2017) – Since the 1920s, the game of mah jongg, which originated during the Qing Dynasty in China, has ignited the popular imagination with its beautiful tiles, mythical origins, and communal spirit. Take this opportunity to learn the history and meaning of the beloved game that became a Jewish-American tradition. In the exhibition, visitors will encounter an ambient soundscape, created by sound designer Timothy Nohe, echoing the clicking of the tiles, the din of the gossip, spoken memories, and exclamations of “Crack!” “Bam!” and “Dot!” A game table at the core of the exhibition space will encourage players and non-players alike to take part in a game of mah jongg and a continuing tradition.
2) Show and Tell: Stories in Chinese Painting ( The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 10/29/16 – 8/6/2017)– In China, paintings that tell stories serve as powerful vehicles to promote political agendas, endorse cultural values, or express personal thoughts. With masterpieces dating from the fourth century, narrative is the earliest established genre in Chinese painting. This exhibition is the first at The Met to explore the various ways in which Chinese artists have gone beyond mere illustration to convey multiple layers of meaning.
3) Tales of Our Time (故事新编) (Guggenheim Museum, 11/4/16 – 3/10/17) – An exhibition presenting the second commission of The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Chinese Art Initiative will display new works by artists hailing from Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan: Chia-En Jao, Kan Xuan, Sun Xun, Sun Yuan & Peng Yu, Tsang Kin-Wah, Yangjiang Group, and Zhou Tao. Working in a range of mediums, including video, sculpture, installation, mixed media on paper, and participatory intervention, these artists are unified by their distinctive and independent practices that poetically balance politics and aesthetics.
The artists in this exhibition challenge the conventional understanding of place. By portraying often-overlooked cultural and historical narratives, their artworks address specific locations, such as their hometowns, remote borderlands, or a group of uninhabited islands, as well as abstract ideas, such as territory, boundaries, or even utopia. China, too, is presented here, not only as a country but also as a notion that is open for questioning and reinvention.
4) Ai Weiwei ( Mary Boone Gallery, Deitch Projects, Lisson Gallery, 11/5 – 12/23 ) – Three galleries in New York present concurrents exhibitions of Ai Weiwei’s recent works.
Mary Boone Gallery ( 745 5th Ave & 541 West 24th St. ) presents Ai Weiwei 2016: Roots and Branches at its locations in both uptown and Chelsea. At Fifth Avenue, a circular field of 40,000 spouts broken from antique Chinese porcelain teapots fills the main room. Wallpaper with a complex design of an arm with extended middle finger, referencing Ai’s well-known Study of Perspective series of photographs, serves as the backdrop for this installation. Seen in this context, the individual spouts mimic the form of the bent finger, excised and rendered ineffectual. The Chelsea location houses the monumental (25 foot high) Tree. Constructed from weathered sections of dead trees that have been brought down from the mountains of Southern China and bolted together in the form of a whole, healthy tree with spreading branches, Tree is a totem that may be seen as a comment on the strength of modern China built from many ancient ethnic groups, or a determined attempt to create something new and vital from what is irrevocably lost.
Deitch Projects ( 18 Wooster St. ) presents Ai Weiwei: Laundromat, which will showcase items and photographs Ai Weiwei brought back from his refugee camp visits. It will also include a short documentary about Idomeni, which ends on the image of a pink heart-shaped light, still blinking on the back of a little girl’s shoe, like a beacon of resilience and hope.
Lisson Gallery (504 West 24th St.) presents Ai Weiwei 2016: Roots and Branches. The artist populates the gallery with felled, cast-iron tree trunks, nearly sixteen feet in length, and a series of iron root sculptures set against the backdrop of a new wallpaper installation. Situated among the beams of the High Line exposed entirely in this exhibition for the first time, the seven sculptures on display combine to create a forest of displaced objects and reveal the artist’s interest in tradition and contemporaneity as well as the prevalence of displacement in post-modern societies.
5) Cross the Border ( Wook + Flavio Gallery, 11/6 – 12/3 ) – Curated by Ava Xu, eight emerging artists who had art education in both China and the U.S. will showcase a variety of works which reflect their struggles and dreams on a foreign land. Participating artists: Baoyang Chen, Xiaodong Chen, Dongze Huo, Qin Han, Jongdong Shen, Xin Song, Jon Tsoi, Qiuren Wang, Jin Xu.
Opening reception: November 6, 6-8 PM at Wook + Flavio Gallery, 10 E 33rd St, 3rd Fl.
All The Ways In Which I Abuse Her : New Painting by Ting Yih (Gallery 456, 10/7 – 11/10 (extended))
Wu Jian’an: Ten Thousand Things (Chambers Fine Art, 9/8 – 11/12)
Wei Dong: Observer ( Klein Sun Gallery, 10/13 – 11/12)
Chou Chun Fai: Everything Comes With an Expiry Date (Klein Sun Gallery, 10/13 – 11/12)
Visit the exhibition calendar for details for the current shows listed below. Check the museum or gallery’s website for hours of operation.
All The Ways In Which I Abuse Her : New Painting by Ting Yih (Gallery 456, 10/7 – 11/4 (extended))
Wu Jian’an: Ten Thousand Things (Chambers Fine Art, 9/8 – 11/12)
Wei Dong: Observer (Klein Sun Gallery, 10/13 – 11/12)
Chou Chun Fai: Everything Comes With an Expiry Date (Klein Sun Gallery, 10/13 – 11/12)
Cultural Revolution, Propaganda Art, and Historical Memories (Reading Room, C.V. Starr East Asian Library at Columbia University, 535 West 114th St., 9/22 – 11/22)
Meredith Sands / Ziyang Wu (Nancy Margolis Gallery, 10/13 – 11/26)
Interpreting Brooklyn (Residency Unlimited/El Museo de Los Sures , 10/27 – 11/27)
Liu Fei – Zipped (Museum Quality, 11/3 – 12/1)
Cross the Border ( Wook + Flavio Gallery, 11/6 – 12/3 )
Zhang Peili: Continuous Reproduction (Asia Society, 9/9 – 12/4)
Yang Mian (M. Sutherland Fine Arts, 11/3 – 12/??; public viewing 11/3 – 11/5; by appointment through December)
To Thomas Ruff: This Is How Digital Photos Getting Damaged (Gallery 456, 11/18 – 12/16)
Liu Wei (Lehmann Maupin, 11/2 – 12/17)
Liu Bolin: Art Hacker (Klein Sun Gallery, 11/17 – 12/23)
Ai Weiwei 2016: Roots and Branches (Mary Boone Gallery, 11/5 – 12/23 )
Ai Weiwei 2016: Roots and Branches ( Lisson Gallery, 11/5 – 12/23 )
Ai Weiwei: Laundromat ( Deitch Projects – 18 Wooster St, 11/5 – 12/23 )
Love Ai Jing (Marlborough Gallery, 11/16 – 12/30)
Chow: Making the Chinese American Restaurant (11/11 – 12/31, Museum of Food and Drink Lab)
Infinite Compassion: Avalokiteshvara in Asian Art (Staten Island Museum, 10/22 – unknown)
Project Mah Jongg (Museum of Jewish Heritage , 10/15/16 – Jan 2017)
Cheng Ran: Diary of a Madman (New Museum, 10/19 /2016 – 1/5/2017)
No Limits: Zao Wou-Ki (Asia Society, 9/9/16 – 1/8/2017)
In Perspective: Lin Yan, Song Xin and Cui Fei (Chambers Fine Art, 11/17 – 1/28/2017)
Art In a Time Of Chaos: Masterworks From Six Dynasties China, 3rd–6th Centuries (China Institute, 9/30/2016 – 3/19/2017)
Sour, Sweet, Bitter, Spicy: Stories of Chinese Food and Identity in America (Museum of Chinese in America, 10/6/2016- 3/26/2017)
Hung Yi – Fancy Animal Carnival (Garment District pedestrian plazas on Broadway from 36th to 41st Streets, 9/20/16 – 4/15/17)
Show and Tell: Stories in Chinese Painting (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 10/29/16 – 8/6/2017)
Cinnabar: The Chinese Art of Carved Lacquer, 14th – 19th Century (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 6/25/16-10/9/2017)
From the Imperial Theater: Chinese Opera Costumes of the 18th and 19th Centuries (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 6/25/16-10/9/2017)
Colors of the Universe: Chinese Hardstone Carvings (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 6/25/16-10/9/2017)
Lead image: Zhang Xiaogang – My Ideal, 2008. Bronze, 143 x 54 x 72 cm each; My Ideal, 2003 – 2008. Oil on Linen, 279 x 500 cm. Seen at LV Foundation, Paris