The Pleasures and Punishments of Long-Ass Films

Nick Pinkerton at The Baffler:

The current champion of heavyweight cinema, who vacillates between gallery and traditional cinematic presentation, must be the Chinese documentarian Wang Bing, who broke out internationally with his first film Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks (2003) and has subsequently produced the fourteen-hour Crude Oil (2008)—premiered as an installation at the 2008 International Film Festival Rotterdam—as well as the nearly nine-hour Dead Souls (2018). Andrew Chan, writing for Film Comment in 2016, distilled the role of duration in Wang’s work, writing, “Wang’s durational extremes do not just carry with them the weight of history and the inertia of the present; they also suggest that we as viewers might repay the gift of his subjects’ nakedness with our own sustained submission.” Chan is writing specifically about Wang’s 2013 ‘Til Madness Do Us Part, a nearly four-hour film that takes place almost entirely inside a dismal, crumbling mental institution doing double-duty as a lock-up for political undesirables. “Time in these films does not embrace, it provokes,” Chan continues, with further reference to West of the Tracks. “It’s felt as sacrifice and labor. And the aim is to make us earn, as if such a thing were possible, the right to lay eyes on humiliations that are at once collectively borne and unbearably private.”

more here.