director & writer: Jia Zhangke
cinematography: Yu Lik-wai
editor: Kong Jinglei
design: Qiu Sheng
music: Yoshihiro Hanno
producers: Li Kit-ming, Shozo Ichiyama, Masayuki Mori (exec.)
production co.: Hu Tong Communication (HK), T-Mark, Office Kitano
Wang Hongwei ... Cui Mingliang
Zhao Tao ... Yin Ruijuan
Liang Jingdong ... Zhang Jun
Yang Tianyi ... Zhong Ping
Wang Bo ... Yao Eryong
Song Yongpin ... Song Yongpin
Excerpts of a review in CineAction by Shelly Kraicer: reviewed at the Toronto International Film Festival, September, 2001.
Mainland director Jia Zhangke caught the international film world's with his debut feature Xiao Wu (1998). Made independently in China without official permission, Xiao Wu caused a small sensation as it circulated through the international film festival circuit. It won several prizes and provoked the French film press to dub Jia the most promising young Chinese director. But, having failed to secure the mainland Film Bureau's necessary approval, it remains un-showable in China.
His second film, Platform (Zhantai, 2000), not only confirms that promise, but stakes out a much more substantial claim. It has the weight and ambition of a masterpiece, the defining film of a generation; it is perhaps the most important mainland film of the last few years. Platform announces its ambition, most obviously, by its genre something close to historical epicand by its length. As it is currently cut, it runs 195 minutes (the French distributor suggested at the TIFF screening that it will be shortened significantly, but Jia demurred).
Like Xiao Wu, Platform is an unauthorized mainland production; neither the script nor the final print received official permission. It therefore it cannot be shown in China, although prints are circulating outside of the country. It debuted at the 2000 Venice Film Festival, travelled immediately to Toronto, and is receiving screenings at other international film festivals.
Set between 1979 and 1991, the film attempts to chart the social, economic, and cultural changes that utterly transformed the People's Republic of China during that decade. After the enormous damage wrought by the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), which finally came to a close in the period following Mao Zedong's death (1976-1979), China under Deng Xiaoping opened itself culturally and economically to the rest of the world. It shed a collectivized economy for a substantially privatized one, and began to offer its citizens, both rural and urban, unprecedented economic and social freedoms.
These are Platform's broad themes. But Jia disavows the well-trodden path of self-important history-of-a-nation filmmaking by keeping his film's focus tight, precise, and local. Platform concentrates on four performers (all in their twenties) in a provincial performance troupe: Cui Mingliang (Wang Hongwei), accordionist and electric guitar player, his quasi-girlfriend Yin Ruijuan (Zhao Tao) who sings and dances, her best friend, singer Zhong Ping (Yang Tianyi), and Zhong's boyfriend Zhang Jun (Liang Jingdong). The troupe is based in Jia's actual hometown, Fenyang, a small town west of Beijing in Shanxi province near the Yellow River. This town also served as the setting for Xiao Wu, but in his second film, Jia expands his territory north and west, to the Inner Mongolian desert and the banks of the Yellow River. All of the main characters speak in the local Shanxi dialect, further tying the film to a quite specific sense of place. [...]