‘The New Yorker’ Honors 2 Chinese Films Among Year’s Best

Lou Ye’s black-and-white drama ‘Saturday Fiction’ and Qiu Jiongjiong’s three-hour biopic ‘A New Old Play’ have made the list

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terra wang
3:47 PM HKT, Thu December 29, 2022 1 mins read

On December 5, The New Yorker movie-listings editor Richard Brody released his picks for the best movies of 2022, a list that includes two Chinese filmsSaturday Fiction and A New Old Play.

Saturday Fiction (兰心大剧院)

Saturday Fiction is a black-and-white drama directed by screenwriter-director Lou Ye. The film premiered at the Venice International Film Festival in 2019 and was later screened on the Chinese mainland in October 2021.

Poster of Saturday Fiction. Image via IMDb

Poster for Saturday Fiction. Image via IMDb

The film is a spy thriller set in Shanghai at the beginning of the Second World War. It tells the story of a renowned actress who comes into town for a stage play while secretly carrying out undercover tasks.

Saturday Fiction features an impressive cast. Its female protagonist is played by Gong Li, a world-famous actress who starred in Ju Dou, the first Chinese movie nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1990.

The film also features Taiwanese-Canadian actor and model Mark Chao, French actor Pascal Greggory, and Japanese actor and musician Joe Odagiri.

Born in 1965 in Shanghai, Lou Ye is commonly referred to as one of the sixth-generation directors of Chinese cinema.

His films have a unique artistic style and often shed light on marginalized groups in Chinese society. Many of his productions are banned in the country, and only five of 11 films he made over the past three decades successfully secured domestic theatrical releases.

However, Lou has been making waves on the global stage for years. His debut film, Weekend Lover, had a world premiere in 1995 at the Internationales Filmfestival Mannheim-Heidelberg, where it received the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Award. Lou won international prominence with his third film Suzhou River in 2000.

A New Old Play (椒麻堂会)

The other Chinese film to make Brody’s list, A New Old Play, tells the epic story of an actor who performs Sichuan opera, a type of Chinese opera originating in Southwest China’s Sichuan province around 1700.

Qiu Jiongjiong, a Sichuan-born contemporary Chinese artist and filmmaker, wrote and directed the movie, which is based on his grandfather’s life.

The three-hour-long film follows an actor who passes away and enters the afterlife, where he vividly experiences key moments from his life one final time. He relives his own journey, as well as that of his troupe and society as a whole, from the 1930s to the 1980s.

Poster of A New Old Play Image via IMDb

Poster for A New Old Play. Image via IMDb

Born in 1977 in the city of Leshan in Sichuan, Qiu is often praised as “one of China’s most innovative, critical, and entertaining artists/filmmakers.”

Prior to A New Old Play, his first fiction feature, Qiu made several documentaries such as Mr. Zhang Believes (2015), Ode to Joy (2007), and Madame (2010).

This masterpiece, which premiered at Locarno International Film Festival 2021, has brought Qiu worldwide acclaim. It has won four awards and eight nominations at film festivals around the globe.

Cover image via IMDb

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