Platform is the second movie of Jia Zhang-Ke, who in my opinion is one of the most talented directors coming out of a region that produces more interesting films than any other region in the world at the moment.

One should know when entering this film that its quite long, with no real plot. The film consists of a number of short scenes in the life of a performance group from the Chinese countryside as the country exits communism and enters the market economy. Characters enter and exit the group, but the group slowly disintegrates as the country loses any need for "culture building," and Westernization and the market economy begin to determine what is necessary for the group to do in order to make a living.

There are a lot of issues one could take with the content of this film. The first of which is the way Jia Zhang-Ke depicts westernizations effects on the countryside. He treats the characters fascination with the west largely as comedy, and with a strange nostalgia for communism. While the nostalgia isn't strange in itself, as that feeling is fairly common in ex-communist countries, it is rather strange in this film where he is fairly explicitly criticizing at some points the role of the party in daily life.

The film really encourages you to pay as little attention to the plot as you possibly can. It is fairly easy to lose track of who's who in this film, and I would prefer to think of some of the attitudes depicted in the film as ambivalent rather than contradictory. What the film does in its three hours of scenes without a linear plot, is slowly move the viewer away from watching a film about performers, to watching a film about people. All of the people though, are nagged by a desire to performs. In a clich├ęd western film though, this would have been a desire for fame and the spotlight. In Platform the characters, who could never imagine performing in these shitty villages as anything vaguely resembling fame, are really desiring performance in itself. Performance though, is something rather more than

Lets take two shots as an example.

In one scene a girl, an ex-performer, is alone, sweeping the police station where she works. As the scene slowly progresses she goes from sweeping to dancing.

In the last scene of the film, a woman holds a baby and does housework while a tea kettle comes to a boil.

Of course, if the scenes are taken literally, then both women (actors) are performing. One is turning the performance of real life in to a stage performance, the other is performing real life, but both of them are performing for us. Performance is a way, for the original group of communist performers, of being for others, that slowly disintegrates into being for oneself. The film is similarly a way of being for others, and as the "performances" go downhill, the authenticity of the way the characters present themselves (are presented) to the audience is always more deeply foregrounded. Until the characters are literally performing their way of being.

Of course then the film ends, and there is nothing at all.

Buy Platform here

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