Quitting

"Good"

Quitting Review


Director Zhang Yang's Quitting, which chronicles the rise and fall of Chinese actor Jia Hongsheng, is a difficult film in several respects. It's not an easy chore to watch a person's life crumble, and here the task is made even more taxing by virtue of the fact that this movie is based on a true story and, amazingly, its cast is comprised entirely by real people portraying themselves. In addition to traditional narrative filmmaking, Yang mixes documentary-like interview footage with several scenes where the camera pulls back to reveal the actors performing the material on the set of a play. Yang's inventiveness is commendable, but his daring causes the film to become derailed on several occasions. Add to that a pace which makes the second half of the film crawl to the finish, and ultimately Qutting can feel a bit too unnecessarily weighed down and excessive.

Jia Hongsheng was on the cusp of stardom in the 1980s, having gained fame playing the roles of villains in several Chinese B-movies. The actor, however, suffered from extreme emotional instability and his experimentation with drugs led to a quick fall from grace. As his mental state continued to fracture, Jia's parents -- fellow actors who were long-time members of a theater troupe in Northern China -- packed up all of their belongings and moved in with their son, who was sharing an apartment with his sister. The road to recovery was, of course, beset by a multitude of pitfalls, eventually leading Jia's family to institutionalize the man.

The film doesn't flinch for an instant, as it brings you down into the depths of the family's despair. The first half of the movie balances the emotionally wrenching moments with a slight touch of aloofness, offering the viewer the correct distance to observe Jia's unraveling. The parents' painstaking efforts to save their son and the often volatile manner in which he dismisses their help can be demanding to watch but also quite moving.

The film's storytelling experimentation doesn't show itself immediately, and while the scenes of the "filmed play" are innovative, they also have a tendency to take you out of the moment. I'll stop short of calling Yang's approach a gimmick because the director's aesthetic is very grounded, but there's a point where his technique flirts a bit too closely with overwhelming the film's emotional core.

The performances are mostly effective and hard to find fault with, as one can only imagine the strength it took for these people to revisit such an agonizing period in their lives. Because the turns in Jia's life become so depressing and Yang is so intent to capture it all in such detail, the film feels much longer than its 112-minute running time. The movie simply becomes draining, leaving you fatigued to the point where you appreciate the conclusion solely because the experience has come to an end.

Qutting may be a flawed film, but it is nothing if not sincere. It's a work that doesn't shy away from ugliness and challenges you to confront its dark subject on similar terms. While undoubtedly too heavy for many, it will certainly garner a strong reaction from those who choose to seek it out.

Aka Zuotian.

Quitting the tie-dyed trade.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 112 mins

In Theaters: Friday 1st March 2002

Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 77%
Fresh: 34 Rotten: 10

IMDB: 7.2 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

Contactmusic


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