Friday, 16 September 2016


Perhaps as potent a declaration of the essence of 'slow cinema' existing simply in its existence alone, Wang Bing's Bitter Money flaunts whatever expectations each viewer brings to it - too long and uneventful for the mainstream, neither quite long nor uneventful enough for the initiated. It makes a series of observations, each as intimately interwoven as the lives, the habitats, the situations of its characters, each only elaborated upon for the purpose of strengthening their cumulative impact. It needs neither to be shorter nor to be longer - it exists as it is, and tests not the viewer's tolerance nor their artistic preconditions. Bitter Money is an aptly relentless, unyielding statement on work in contemporary China, its pervasiveness extending even to what few domestic scenes we witness, either brief preludes or interludes between extended episodes of monotonous, meaningless graft. The pay is low, the work conditions are poor, the living conditions even more so: an expanse of concrete and clutter, both macro and micro. Under such circumstances, Wang sees what becomes of human nature, and thus exposes the true injury in this futile, classist exploitation in the familiarity and normality of the character of his subjects. They are consumed by unnecessary necessities, and the tragedy is compounded by the unavoidability, the inevitability of it, and their apathetic reactions to it. Wang intentionally doesn't let Bitter Money go by without incident, though the timbre of these episodes is congruent with that of the rest of the film. And in permitting the fourth wall to be broken, Wang denies neither the verisimilitude of his film, nor the parallels between its content and its construction. In every possible way, what we're watching is hard work.