A New Old Play
Release year: 2021
Run time: 169 minutes
Film type: Fiction
Qiu Jiongjiong’s visually magnificent new film is a unique hybrid of fiction, historical reminiscence, and experimental theatre. Its overview of China from the 1930s to the 1980s is filtered through Qiu Yu, a Sichuan opera 'clown' based on the director’s own famous grandfather. As Qiu Yu negotiates his entry into Hades with two comic sidekicks, his departing soul reviews his childhood, his performances, family tragedies, and political perils. This film of unparalleled aesthetic and political courage takes place in modestly spectacular visual settings: Qiu, a famous artist, has handcrafted an exquisite miniature model village, a fantastical river landscape, a golden sun in the shape of a Buddha’s head. These images set the scene for a constantly shifting acting style that embraces absurdism, political melodrama, comic vaudeville, and ritual tableaux. We are offered memory as a re-lived collective experience, insistently comic in its mode, but expansively humane in its vision.
Qiu Jiongjiong's experiences growing up have made him something of an eccentric in the art community: he began painting at age two and at age three he began performing local opera (his grandfather was a famous Sichuanese Opera performer). From a young age he dreamed of becoming an artist, and at 18 he left school to pursue this career. In 2007 he completed his first film, Moon Palace, a 100-minute film documenting his father's life.