24 City (U)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner29/04/2010

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 112 mins

24 City is an intriguing blend of documentary and fiction that is intermittently both moving and informative, though it's also slightly too long and drags a little around the halfway mark.

What's it all about?
Directed by Jia Zhang-Ke, 24 City is an intriguing blend of documentary and fiction in which several factory workers (and two grown-up children of factory workers) recount their life stories as Factory 420 in central Chengdu is dismantled in order to make way for a shopping and housing complex to be known as 24 City.

The interviewees include: retiring fitter He Xikun, who pays glowing tribute to his ex-boss and mentor; Hou Lijun, who tells a moving story about leaving her parents and grandparents to take a job in the factory; model employee Hao Dali (actress Lu Liping), who tells a devastating story about the day her three-year-old son went missing (and was never found); Song Weidong, who recalls his first girlfriend and local fights between factory kids and local kids; Gu Minhua (actress Joan Chen), who talks about her resemblance to, ahem, actress Joan Chen and laments a series of failed relationships; and two grown-up children of factory workers, TV newsreader Zhao Gang (actor Chen Jianbin), who rejected a career in the factory, and personal shopper Su Na (actress Zhao Tao), who is determined to buy her grandparents an apartment in 24 City.

The Good
The film's blend of documentary and fiction is fascinating, not least because with the exception of Joan Chen's monologue, it's almost impossible to tell which is which – for example, the two grown-up children are actually fictional but their stories seem much more real than some of the real-life ones. There's also a rather charming Alan Bennett-like quality to some of the monologues, particularly Joan Chen's, which is both beautifully written and quietly heartbreaking.

The film is also beautifully shot and the documentary element is as fascinating and informative (e.g. the factory used to be a state secret) as the fictional elements are moving.

The Bad
That said, one or two of the stories could have been shortened or cut, as the lengthy running time means that it wears out its welcome before the end.

Worth seeing?
Despite its lengthy running time, this is an intriguing film that's both informative and emotionally engaging. Worth seeking out.

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24 City (U)
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Content updated: 24/10/2017 12:17

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