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One Second

"a resonant, very human drama"

★★★★½ - STUFF 

- Zhang Yimou's charming love letter to the power of cinema delights - 

Veteran Chinese director Zhang Yimou’s latest drama is not only a love letter to the power of cinema, it also feels like his most personal film since 2005’s RidingAlone For Thousands of Miles.

The now 70-year-old helmer, who has given us such visually and emotionally memorable tales as HeroRaise the Red LanternCurse of the Golden Flower and House of Flying Daggers, here scales back on the scope and kineticism to deliver a poignant and intimate story that packs just as much of a punch.

One Second is actually his second film inspired by Geling Yan’s 2011 novel The Criminal Lu Yanshi – the first being 2014’s Coming Home. Set during China’s Cultural Revolution, This is the story of Zhang Jiusheng (Zhang Yi) a middle-aged man on a mission.

Dismayed to learn that he has missed his current location’s sole screening of the film Heroic Sons and Daughters, he is eager to discover where it is headed next. But despite learning of its next destination, he then finds himself embroiled in an ongoing battle with a young thief (Liu Haocun) for possession of one of the reels. Their fight escalates, even as they are heading in the same direction through the energy-sapping desert.

Eventually the pair call an uneasy truce to end hostilities and hand the reel over to its originally intended recipient, local entrepreneurial projectionist “Mr Movie” (Fan Wei).

However, hopes of the scheduled 8pm screening going ahead look dashed when the rest of the movie arrives in a less-than-satisfactory state. A donkey cart accident has left the stock caked with sand and dust and more twisted than the ass’ intestines. Only a miracle and a collaborative effort to clean and dry the print will save the evening’s entertainment and allow Zhang to see the footage he so desperately craves.

A tale featuring plenty of slapstick, action and a plethora of poignant moments, Yimou and Riding Alone co-writer Zou Jingzhi have again combined to create a resonant, very human drama that offers plenty of twists and turns before the final reel plays out.

Like the beloved 1988 Italian film Cinema Paradiso, this is the story of an unlikely inter-generational friendship and the way in which movies can unite disparate people.

It also demonstrates how the moving image can capture a moment in time and provide a window into a life thought lost, while showcasing the trials and tribulations projectionists had to go through just to ensure an image made it onto a screen and stayed there – before digital technology and automation turned the profession into a dying art.

- James Croot, STUFF

One Second is now playing limited sessions at Light House Petone and Cuba. 
(In Mandarin with English subtitles) 


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