The director inaugurated the recent San Sebastián Festival with ‘Un Segundo’, a beautiful tribute to the cinema framed during the Cultural Revolution
Zhang Yimou is 71 years old. He is no longer that young rebel of the so-called Fifth Generation of Chinese cinema, whose films reached the Spanish original version on time. From ‘Red Sorghum’ to ‘Hero’ and ‘The House of Flying Daggers’, Yimou’s filmography went from the subtle and traditional portrayal of his country to action and epic with special effects. The film with which he inaugurated the last San Sebastián Festival confirms the return to his roots, which he already anticipated ‘Return home’ (2014). Yimou once again denounces the decomposition and excesses of Mao’s Cultural Revolution in a film that is a beautiful tribute to cinema, a kind of Chinese ‘Cinema Paradiso’.
Its protagonist is a convict sent to a labor camp in the desolate northwest of the country. Using his ingenuity and with the sole purpose of seeing his daughter, who has been filmed in a movie (the second to which the title alludes), he manages to escape and flees in the direction of the cinema in a nearby town. There he hopes to find that tape and get it. However, he comes across a homeless girl desperate to get the same reel of film and who manages to steal it. The enigmatic object, which both yearn for very different reasons, will become the root of an unexpected friendship.
An image from ‘One Second’, by Zhang Yimou.
The most inventive and exciting of ‘Un Segundo’ are the sequences that take place inside the cinema, with the manipulation of the celluloid by the projectionist and the response that he achieves in the public. The film should have been released at the Berlinale two editions ago, but at the last minute the Chinese authorities withdrew it. Although the official version argued “technical problems”, everything suggests that the fault was the censorship of the Beijing regime. Zhang Yi and Fan Wei, two stars in China, star in this tender, nostalgic and poetic elegy for cinema that feeds on the humanism and humor of Chaplin’s work.