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Thread: BUDDHA MOUNTAIN (Li Yu 2010) - 10-Year Anniversary Directors Cut

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    BUDDHA MOUNTAIN 观音山 (Li Yu 2010) - 10-Year Anniversary Directors Cut

    Li Yu: BUDDHA MOUNTAIN 观音山 (2010) - 10-YEAR ANNIVERSARY DIRECTOR'S CUT


    FAN BINGBING, FEI LONG, AND CHEN PO-LIN IN BUDDHA MOUNTAIN

    CHINESE TRAILER

    The kids find a new mom - for a while

    Li Yu's Buddha Mountain makes a good cult film for fans of emotional excess and visual bravado in an Asian setting. Her Lost in Beijing, coming just two years earlier, was thought the sexually boldest feature ever made in mainland China and was withdrawn from theaters there shortly after its release. This is more restrained in that way but as much a visual and emotional extravaganza. It isn't as fresh and assured a depiction of aimless youth running amok as Wong Kar-wai's Days of Being Wild or Jia Zhang-ke's Unknown Pleasures but it provides the pleasure of being more deliriously over the top, and it's by a woman. Hence it is well worth a look for Asian film fans who now are offered the additional pleasure, whether known or new, of a tenth anniversary director's cut released to VOD. This has some crazy jump cuts, but its implausible moments aren't as bad as those of Lost in Beijing. The jerky, swirling cinematography, not without moments of incredible scenic beauty (there is nothing minimalist about this picture), catches the cacophony, violence and energy that is contemporary Chinese life and has a warmth that makes you want to go on watching. There are some jump cuts in the middle that make no narrative sense, and maybe that's what's meant by "director's cut." But this packs in a lot. One thing that holds it together besides the essential cinematography of Zeng Jian, is a rich orchestral score, with piano duo moments, by Peyman Yazdanian.

    Li gives us two female stars, set off by men. This is a weepy intergenerational buddy picture, where the generations take a while to buddy up. First there is a trio of two boys and a girl who "have no intention of sitting exams and getting into universities" and for the nonce work and hang out at a club. They're Nan Feng (Chinese star Fan Bingbing) , who sings in a blond wig, and gets into a flap with the club owner for wounding a customer through gross negligence; and her handsome, detached, chain smoking motorcycle messenger pal Ding Bo (Taiwanese actor Chen Po-lin), whose best mate is his overweight former school pal Fei Zao (Fei Long), aka "Fatso." The trio become inseparable. Housing and parental issues lead them to take rooms with a mature but handsome former Peking Opera star, Chang Yueqin (Taiwanese star Sylvia Chang). She is disagreeable and they play mean tricks on her and steal her cash stash (replacing it temporarily with fake funeral money) for Nan Feng to pay off the club owner. The parents left behind aren't forgotten either; Li's capacious style wouldn't allow it. There's a sequence where Nan Feng goes back home to torment her dying alcoholic father, and another where Ding revisits and heaps reproach on his trainman father (producer/co-writer Fang Li).

    Somehow, at some point, the party-loving trio and their grim landlady start becoming friendly and she begins to be more cheerful - though she goes off to a garage periodically to sit in a wrecked car and smoke and weep. Itturns out she is grieving a beloved son who died when the car was hit by a truck. The daughter-in-law has one leg as a result: you meet her when she comes with a big cake on the dead son's birthday, which is also the anniversary of his fatal accident. Not a wise move, but good for a dramatic scene.

    An iconic image is the one that signals the threesome's becoming a foursome, a handsome middle-distance shot of a long rowboat with Chang joining the kids on an outing. Right when they're getting so friendly with their landlady, off they go by themselves jumping an open freight train: this is where they land in a railroad station called "Buddha Mountain." Later, I'm not sure how, all four wind up surveying the site (with some doc footage of rescues patched in) of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Here they find a Buddha temple on a cliff they work at restoring under a Buddhist master. This sequence toward the end allows opportunity for a blend of spirituality and natural wonder as there's a giant Buddha they also restore and spectacular scenery. Oh and Chang's or her late son's smashed car gets totally restored, so they can all ride in it.

    The fun is the sheer heedless flow of all this. While not flat-out implausible, it's also not altogether convincing as narrative. But it's indie Asian art film movie magic, and you sit back and enjoy it and wait for the good moments. There are plenty of those because these actors are as good, and alive, as they are nice to look at. Li has added something feminine and personal to what Wong and Jia - as well as Tsai Ming-liang and a few others - gave us earlier, with in their case more conviction and restraint but less blood, sweat and tears than are on offer in this extravagant film. For all my reservations, I understand how Roger Ebert, writing from the Hong Kong Film Festival in 2010, could say that Buddha Mountain had felt like "the kind of movie I dream of seeing every time I sit down in a theater... the kind that stays with me long after the lights have dimmed and brightened."

    Buddha Mountaiin 观音山 105 mins., in Chinese Mandarin, debuted at the 2010 Tokyo Film Festival Oct. 24 (competing), where Fan Bingbing won best actress and Li Yu won best artistic contribution. It was also featured at Taipei (Golden Horse), and in 2011 Fan Bingbing won another best actress award at the Beijing College Student Film Festival. It also was featured in 2011 festivals at Singapore (winning best film), Vancouver, Thessaloniki and Nagoya (Aichi International Women’s Film Festival), in 2012 at Cleveland and in 2013 at Osaka. It was released theatrically in Mar. 2011 in China and in Sept. 2013 in Japan. Reviewed online this director's cu (restoring scenes deleted from the Chinese theatrical release), released Aug. 20, 2021, is available in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, UK, and Ireland on Amazon Prime Video, Vimeo on demand, Hoopla, Viki and more; see BuddhaMountainFilm.com.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 08-30-2021 at 10:12 AM.

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