The canvases for Jia Zhangke, chronicler of the China’s incessant sociopolitical transitions, are usually at once grand and intimate, and that holds true for Mountains May Depart too. However, the final segment in this episodic film was a departure as it focused on the diaspora population, and that made it bit of a mixed bag by his stellar standards – compelling and poignant for two-thirds, but tad stilted in the end. The fist chapter, set in the dreary coal mining town of Fenyang in the Shanxi province in 1999 – as Hong Kong is on the verge of changing hands – and shot in the flat aspect ratio of 1..33:1, portrayed a love triangle involving Tao (Zhao Tao) who has a layered friendship with soft-spoken coal mine worker Liangzi (Liang Jingdong), and the brash businessman Jingsheng (Zhang Yi) who starts pursuing her aggressively. In the second episode, set in 2014 and shot in widescreen ratio of 1.87:1, Tao is now a successful businesswoman whose life gets shaken by two developments – the return after many years of a severely ill and impoverished Liangzi; and a brief visit by her 7-year old son Dollar, from her broken marriage to Jingsheng, for her father’s funeral. The final chapter, set in Sydney in 2025 and shot in ultra widescreen ratio of 2.35:1, Dollar, who’s now an estranged young guy with faded memories of his mother, starts a Freudian affair with his middle-aged professor (Sylvia Chang). Tao was magnificent in the first two chapters which were laced with loneliness and melancholy, while Jia made lovely use of the disco track Go West, especially in the magical and heartwarming final shot where it plays to Tao’s impromptu solitary jig.
Director: Jia Zhangke
Genre: Drama/Social Drama/Family Drama