Though some may beg to differ, Liu has a great sense of cinematography, only keeping her characters fully in shot when it’s necessary. The family members are often crammed into the frame, reflecting the living space they occupy, and the heated atmosphere that seems to pervade every meal. At times, the off-kilter framing brings to mind the work of Michael Haneke, who often keeps the dramatic moments of his films out of sight, only to be heard or imagined. Although not nearly to the same extent, there is a similar sense of the sinister here, as the viewer is left to ponder how much of Liu’s own life is playing out in front of us. The exchanges between family members are so natural and believable that it is impossible not to identify with some element of their lives, whether it be the Father’s superstitious insistence of stirring sesame paste clockwise, or the family’s unexplained sympathy towards the cat’s habit of scratching all the leather bags.
Saturday, 5 June 2010
Liu Jiayin was just 23 years old when she directed her film debut Oxhide. Using her own family as the cast (herself included), Liu tells short vignettes about family life, using static shots to draw the drama into one place. Mother gets impatient with Father for minor indiscretions, Father gets impatient with Daughter for her worrying stature, and Daughter gets impatient to move out. The family appears to scrape by through sales of counterfeit leather handbags, although business is flagging in the film’s time frame.