Tuesday, 24 August 2010


Best known for his marathon ultra-realist documentaries, filmmaker Wang Bing is representative of the ‘other’ face of China, and his most recent work Man With No Name epitomises this well. The subject of this film not only has no name, he is also ageless, voiceless and of unknown ethnicity. We follow this anonymous man as he goes about his daily duties, supporting his self-sufficient lifestyle on the very fringe of society. One moment, he is digging dirt on a wintry day, the next he is harvesting dung for fertiliser in summer. The man’s abode is a dingy cave of his own making, and while there is the odd echo of civilisation – a noodle packet is seen at one moment – his life is one of absolute solitude.

Though formally simple, Man With No Name is a complex work. We see the nameless man alone on screen, but his story is universalised by the mundanity of his routine, suggesting that there are many others like him. As in his earlier Tie Xi Qu and Crude Oil, Wang does not give his subject much provenance, forcing the audience to relate to him on a basic human level by participating in his lifestyle. It is easy to forget that Wang and his crew are present filming, testament to his artful restraint in the editing process as well as his direct, unpretentious dialogue with his audience. Perhaps dwarfed by the ambition of other Chinese ‘underground’ films, Man With No Name is nonetheless a vital film.

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