Far Eastern cinema is still the star of the Cannes competition: after the Japanese “Monster” by Hirokazu Kore-Eda, it’s time for “Youth (Spring)”, a new documentary by Chinese director Wang Bing.
Set in a textile industry district, this feature film tells the life of many young people whose existence follows the rhythm of the sewing machines.
Many girls and boys who live in the Yangtze River area move to this area, Zhili, to immerse themselves in this precarious and tiring, as well as decidedly alienating, job.
For five years, from 2014 to 2019, the great Chinese documentary filmmaker filmed these young workers in the textile industry, managing to observe them closely to better understand their activity and their existence. socio-political reflection on contemporary China but, in addition to the theme of work, Wang Bing’s camera focuses on numerous moments of play, friendship and solidarity that make “Youth (Spring)” a work of profound humanity. Also for this reason, the film coherently inscribes with the rest of the filmography of an author who has given us real masterpieces in the past (starting with “Madness and love”, a documentary set in a psychiatric hospital) centered on all the contradictions and the darkest aspects of his country of origin.
A tiring but very interesting experience
Also due to the long duration (about three hours and thirty minutes), “Youth (Spring)” is undoubtedly a tiring vision for the viewer, but Wang Bing’s radical style still transports us into an extremely immersive experience and full of points of interest. Compared to his other films (among the many, we still mention the beautiful “The district of Tiexi”, “Three Sisters” and “Mrs. Fang”) the general redundancy can sometimes be a limitation, but it is precisely in the repetition of the gestures that the alienation of which the workers are victims is best perceived.
Furthermore, a series of reflections on workers’ rights stand out within a general framework that is also striking for the relationship that is established between the people filmed and the surrounding degraded environment. It should be remembered that Wang Bing had already made a documentary on the textile industry , “Bitter Money” of 2016, and it should be noted that “Youth (Spring)” is the first part of a project whose final version will be approximately nine hours long.
Also competing for the Palme d’Or was “Black Flies”, a new work by French director Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire starring Tye Sheridan and Sean Penn. The first plays a novice paramedic, while the second is his mentor , a decidedly more cynical and disillusioned man. Based on the 2008 novel of the same name by Shannon Burke, this film stages a rather conventional and already seen story: at the center is a young hopeful who will soon learn the risks of the job, confronting himself not only with his colleague, but also directly with a series of situations that he could not have imagined.