By Jie Li
Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 21, no. 2, pp. 86-125
This essay analyzes the figure of rubble and ruins in Fei Mu’s Spring in a Small Town (1948) and Jia Zhangke’s Still Life (2006), suggesting a subtle lineage between the two Chinese cinematic masterpieces. While human bodies, psyches, and relationships are symbolized by and at times equated with material ruins, both films also feature a redemption of certain material artifacts as projections of human sentience, as souvenirs of lost origins, as remnants of human life, and most of all, as sites, objects, and vehicles of lyrical expression. Examined through a historical prism, these two films present intriguing intersections between national specificity and global trends, aesthetic traditions and cinematic (post)modernities.