24 City (Er shi si cheng ji) Reviews

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Harlequin68
Super Reviewer
December 22, 2010
Thankfully, "24 City" is not a continuation of the television series "24." All kidding aside, it is easier to describe what "24 City" is not, than what it is. Ostensibly, it is about the tearing down of Factory 420 in Chengdu City in order to make way for luxury apartments. That is only a starting point for an exploration of the recent history of China as it has moved from a country always on a war footing to one that is now ruled by capital, with the airplanes once made in the factory now museum pieces. This is told through static interviews with former workers, managers and others involved in the factory, the last of whom being Su Na(Tao Zhao), a professional shopper who frequently travels to Hong Kong for her clients.

And as you can see and I have read elsewhere, some of these subjects are played by actors and I am not really sure which ones are which. One interviewee, Gu Minhua, who claims she was once compared to Joan Chen is actually Joan Chen. So, basically, "24 City" sits on the edge of documentary and experiment, not totally successful, that maybe should have been attempted on a stage, instead.
Super Reviewer
½ January 2, 2010
Compelling story of a decision to destroy a long time munitions factory to make way for a condo development. It is a story that is told worldwide as politics and economics change. Would merit a higher rating but the director chose to use both real former factory workers and actors. The result is slightly disjointed and a bit misleading.
½ September 19, 2008
A fascinating and baffling hybrid of fiction and documentary. Jia interviews 9 former workers of the now dissembled aircraft parts factory which is being replaced in the current market economy by a housing and commercial center in the city of Chengdu. The catch is that 4 of these people are actors who tell their stories based on real people's experiences. The thing is that the actor interviews were not hard to discern even for two of the actors that I didn't recognize immediately. The actors are just not able to duplicate the naturalness and richness of the real people, no matter how good the performances were. This is exactly what Jia intended to exploit in order to show the difference between the forgotten personal history with the nationalistic history and its self-sacrificing ideology.
April 12, 2015
Don't go looking for a plot. Instead, embrace this variety of stories from Chengdu, China, residents (real and imagined). In a world where we learn life lessons from "Humans of New York" and TED Talks, the experiences of the film's characters have mass appeal and poignancy.
February 14, 2012
Another masterpiece by the great Jia Zhang Ke. Quietly absorbing, and ingeniously constructed as a hybrid of documentary and documentary style fiction. Highly recommended.
January 12, 2011
Arthouse docudrama that is slow moving, but visually compelling. I'd recommend this to anyone interested in the rapid change of modern China and the reflections of those experiencing it.
Harlequin68
Super Reviewer
December 22, 2010
Thankfully, "24 City" is not a continuation of the television series "24." All kidding aside, it is easier to describe what "24 City" is not, than what it is. Ostensibly, it is about the tearing down of Factory 420 in Chengdu City in order to make way for luxury apartments. That is only a starting point for an exploration of the recent history of China as it has moved from a country always on a war footing to one that is now ruled by capital, with the airplanes once made in the factory now museum pieces. This is told through static interviews with former workers, managers and others involved in the factory, the last of whom being Su Na(Tao Zhao), a professional shopper who frequently travels to Hong Kong for her clients.

And as you can see and I have read elsewhere, some of these subjects are played by actors and I am not really sure which ones are which. One interviewee, Gu Minhua, who claims she was once compared to Joan Chen is actually Joan Chen. So, basically, "24 City" sits on the edge of documentary and experiment, not totally successful, that maybe should have been attempted on a stage, instead.
½ July 25, 2010
´"24 City" borrows its structure from documentary to more effectively transmit its "real" message of a changing China and is successful in doing that.

Multi-award winner Chinese director Jia Zhang-Ke returns to fiction with "24 City" after winning Venice´s Gold Lion in 2006 with "Sanxia haoren" (in the same year he saw his documentary "Dong" win two awards and in 2007 he won another one for the documentary "Wuyong"). "24 City" was produced in 2008 and the director (as of 2010) has already another short and a new documentary.

Jia Zhang-Ke, who also co-wrote the script, uses the closing of state factory 420 (a military unit facility) in Chengdu and the conversion its grounds into a huge housing and commercial complex named 24 City (24 City is an old poem) to show us how China is changing. Versatility as a fictionist and a documentarist are as must important as the director steals the structure from documentary and fuses documentary with fiction. Jia Zhang-Ke shots several characters from different generations telling us their life experiences, all of them having some connection to the factory (some are real interview with factory workers; others are fictional played by actors). The factory serves as a common point between characters but also as a symbol of a changing China; this change is evident in the speech, experiences and expectations from the different generations during the course of the movie. As the movie progresses the film wins consistency and unity. Bridging between the different interviews are sequences that show the dismantling of factory 420 as well as the new project to be implemented and we also accompany some of the characters in their lives; Zhang-Ke uses songs and phrases from Chinese and non-Chinese poets in these segments. If trough the words of his characters in the interviews the director manages to put to testimony a China in mutation with the bridging segments we reinforces that messages through the art of music and poetry. China's change is not only economic but also cultural and it is obvious some degree of occidentalization/globalization of the new generation. It is here where real and fictional gain significance as we get the feeling that there seems to be a mixture of both in the history of China's mutation. "24 City" is a good film. *** (3/5).
March 1, 2010
It's unfortunate that some of this poses as documentary because it's still a very honest look at China's modern history.
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