The great Chinese director tells the Corriere about the genesis of his latest film, to be released in Italy on December 16. “My projectionist remembers Alfredo from Noiret”
“This film touches me closely, it is a reminder of my youth. The story is made up, but many of the details are drawn from my personal experience. I worked as a worker in a cotton textile factory in Shaanxi in 1973. At that time, my income was not high and the conditions very difficult, so I saved hard for a few years and bought some rudimentary equipment to learn the techniques. How do you clean the film? How can limescale build-up be prevented? How is simple distilled water obtained? How is drying accelerated? How do you open a tangle of film? These details that I show come from my experience, they are my “inventions” ». One second it is the most personal and at the same time most controversial work of Zhang Yimou. Expected at the Berlinale in 2019, it was withdrawn shortly before the start of the festival due to “technical post-production problems”, read as a veto by government censorship. It was released last November in Chinese cinemas, cut by one minute, and on December 16th Fenix Entertainment and Europictures will arrive. Set in rural China during the cultural revolution, it focuses on the fate of a propaganda film reel, the “newsreel 22”, disputed between the young orphan Liu Guinu (Liu Haocun), Zhang Jiusheng (Zhang Yi), escaped from forced labor, and a projectionist (Fan Wei). More than a historical fresco, the film is a tribute to the strength of cinema, as confirmed by the director of Red Lanterns at Corriere. Which doesn’t make it clear if this is really his director’s cut.
The heart of the film is the power of cinema, embodied in the film. Are you nostalgic for what it represented?
«The historical context is just the background, I focus more on the emotions and dreams of the characters. The so-called nostalgia is actually a deepening of the impression that their destiny makes resonate in us and makes their story unforgettable ».
How did you choose the actors?
«Zhang Yi and Fan Wei are currently the backbone of the Chinese film industry. I chose Liu Haocun from thousands of inexperienced high school kids, she studied for two years and won the New Talent Award ».
What was the biggest difficulty while filming?
“The biggest challenge was building the characters. All three actors are younger than me and they hadn’t experienced those things, at most they had some bad childhood memories. The most memorable part is when several thousand people sing songs from old movies together, a scene that takes you back in time. And when the fugitive peeps out from the small window of the projection room to watch the film, he sticks his head in like an ostrich, and he turns around in tears, that’s it, that moment moved many people ».
How does it feel to know that One second is finally out in the West?
“It is a personal conversation with cinema, with history, with young people, and I sincerely hope that the public will appreciate it. It is a pity that he was unable to meet him at the Rome Festival due to the Coronavirus epidemic. But cinema is our god and our eternal love ».
Projectionist Mister Movie looks like a quote from Alfredo di Tornatore.
«In China some media said it was a Chinese version of New Cinema Paradiso, I was pleased, I love him very much. There are many similarities between the two old projectionists. It’s amazing that they are so similar, despite having completely different cultural backgrounds and histories. This similarity is what we love about cinema. I’m sure this type of film will be made by another director in another country in the future. Perhaps then it will be said: it looks a bit like Nuovo Cinema Paradiso and One Second. That director will answer this question as I did today ».
November 23, 2021 (change November 24, 2021 | 07:52)