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Kaili Blues

Bi Gan

An audacious, richly imagined feature debut that has collected prizes around the world, Kaili Blues heralds the arrival of a major new filmmaker. Chen, a preoccupied doctor working in a small clinic in the rain-drenched city of Kaili, decides to fulfill his late mother’s wish and sets off on a journey to look for his brother’s abandoned child. His partner in the clinic, a lonely old lady, asks him to also find her former lover, giving him a photograph, a shirt, and a music cassette. On the way, Chen passes through a mysterious town where distinctions between past, present, and future appear to slip away.

“One looping shot, reflecting a Buddhist view of the universe as an endless cycle of life, death, and reincarnation, adds to the film’s hallucinatory aura, as does a trippy, ethereal score by Lim Giong (a frequent collaborator of Jia Zhangke and Hou Hsiao-hsien). Bi Gan directed this boldly original debut feature.” – Reader

“Mixing the mundane and the mystical (unexplained recurring motifs, reports of “wild men” living in the forest, etc.) against a backdrop of mountainsides and crumbled concrete, Kaili Blues plays freely with reality and time, bringing to mind the work of Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Bi, part of China’s Miao ethnic minority, seems to have taken Apichatpong as an example; the Thai filmmaker’s influence is all over Kaili Blues, and its imagery is as personal and culturally specific as Apichatpong’s.” – AV Club

“Like the work of many young filmmakers, Bi Gan’s debut feature pulsates with a cinephile’s admiration for his predecessors: there are leisurely motorcycle rides reminiscent of Apichatpong Weerasethakul, lonely locomotives borrowed from Hou Hsiao-hsien, and symbolic clocks out of Wong Kar Wai’s Days of Being Wild. Yet the voice resonating behind these familiar motifs is one of such dazzling originality, it’s hard to emerge from this waking dream of a film without feeling the shock of the new.” – Film Comment

“Perhaps one of the closest continuations of Russian auteur Andrei Tarkovsky’s insistence on film as “sculpting in time,” but where Tarkovsky sought to incite a sense of immensity and the sublime in films such as Nostalghia and The Sacrifice, Bi here takes a far more gentle, handcrafted, and playful approach. It’s impressive and it’s bold, but it’s also delightfully skeptical of the concept of auteurist perfection.” – Brooklyn



Jonathan Demme on KAILI BLUES:

What if a brazen first-time filmmaker decided — beyond audaciously — that they didn’t want to cut from one location to another (all quite distant from each other) for about oh, half their new movie, and instead chose to dare to go with one super-duper-transcendental half-hour plus single take? Answer: you wind up with Bi Gan’s absolutely extraordinary Kaili Blues.

Fair warning here: you need to be a seriously open and accessible film buff / cineaste / movie lover to be right for this picture. The cinema muse—deities have inspired and blessed Kaili Blues with a magic and mystery that is utterly unique.

This film is capable of generating giant cinema joyfulness in those who are ready to bring an open heart, mind and eye to this viewing experience.

Director Bi Gan won Best Emerging Director and Best First Feature at the 2015 Locarno Film Festival. I had the thrill of seeing this film first at last year’s Venice Film Festival, and two months later at the Lisbon and Estoril Film Festivals. The screenings I attended gave rise to audience-ecstasy in both situations. I loved it even more the second time.



  • 11/7 | 8:00PM
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