The 69th edition of the Berlinale dismay at the bleak panorama of the competition section, when it appeared So Long, My Son, the new film by Chinese director Wang Xiaoshuai, the filmmaker who became popular in the West with The bicycle of Beijing (2001), and usual of this festival, where he has won two awards. With So Long, My Son will have solved the doubts of the jury presided over by Juliette Binoche, who until now had only to choose or the French By the grace of God, by François Ozon, or another Chinese film, although filmed in Mongolia, Öndög, from Wang Quan'an, the Tuya's wedding -Oso de Oro in Berlin in 2007-, and that beats around a powerful female character.
In So Long, My SonWang describes the life of a marriage for three decades in which he suffers various vicissitudes and misfortunes. The film is not told linearly, but is structured with very many flashbacks in its 185 minutes. In its final section, the director reveals a family secret -which the viewer sees coming- and other sentimental surprises that catch with the changed step to public and protagonists of the drama. In that formal game of jumping back and forth, Wang finds echoes in the actions, creates emotional atmospheres that make the viewer reconstruct the emotional whole of the universe of a couple that in the end knows that only the other has left to go through life.
Wang Xiaoshuai belongs to the so-called sixth generation of Chinese cinema, more socially aware than its predecessors. That is why we must pay attention to the historical winks that temporarily specify the action of So Long, My Son: the years of the one-child policy, the advent of a savage capitalism … Wang's success lies in making it into small bursts, resituting him from the large numbers to daily life. And letting the work of the protagonist couple, the actors Wang Jingchun, who plays a kind man but with their miseries and their alcoholism, their sufferings and silence, and Yong Mei (actress who appeared in The Assassin), like a contained woman, sometimes overpassed, always sincere. Their interpretation, the very tight use of make-up and hairdressing to merely underline their aging work without grandiloquence -which works because the director is betting more on his actors than on the prosthetics in a lesson that many other filmmakers should apply- leaves him breathless.
On Friday, a third Chinese film should have been shown, One Second, of the revered Zhang Yimou According to the festival, he has not had time to finish his post-production. According to magazines like Variety, the film has not obtained the approval of the Government for its exhibition abroad, and therefore has not received the seal of the golden dragon – created in 2017 – although the censorship did approve its filming. And that Zhang -that in his beginnings was interned in a field of work during the Cultural Revolution, before they allowed him to study cinema and to become the first Chinese filmmaker, with Red sorghum (1988), in winning the Golden Bear – is considered today a filmmaker of the regime. That seal shines at the beginning of So Long, My Son.