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Mountains May Depart 

Wednesday, Mar 9 2016
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Jia Zhangke's Mountains May Depart is one of those bighearted melodramas that mainland China does so well, with hints of The Place Beyond the Pines. The picture takes place in 1999, 2014, and 2025, and follows the changing fortunes of Tao (Tao Zhao) and the two men in her life. There's the working-class Liangzi (Jing Dong Liang) and the well-to-do Zhang (Yi Zhang) — and eventually, her son with Zhang, the subtly named Dollar (Zijian Dong). The title doesn't appear until 40 minutes in, after the first segment, which may well break The Last Movie's record title delay, and the aspect ratio changes with each time period: the square Academy ratio of 1.33:1 for 1999, the basic widescreen of 1.85:1 for 2014, and 2.35:1 Cinemascope for the far-flung future of 2025. (Consider: the once impossibly-futuristic-sounding year of 1999 is now being evoked with old-timey movie techniques.) The 2025 segment focuses on the 19-year-old Dollar, who lives in Australia, doesn't remember his mother, and only speaks English. Among Mountains May Depart's themes is the danger of China's slide into capitalism, although some of the subtleties will likely be lost on Westerners. On that note, while we're clearly meant to despair at the further encroachment of technology, those transparent computer tablets from 2025 do look pretty boss.

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Sherilyn Connelly

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