Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue

Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue ★★★★

Feels like Jia returning to his neorealist roots with all the tricks he's picked up over the last decade of increasingly technical, dazzling work. Comprising mostly talking heads, this is nonetheless so gorgeously framed than even shots of a guy sitting at a table telling life stories contains sumptuous detail both in the camera placement and the spontaneous background details of people entering and exiting the background. Jia focuses on a number of authors (including a deceased one whose presence is filled in by friends and relatives) from one artist interesting in China's changing landscape to others, and this could easily be a companion piece to Platform as an ambivalent view of China's rapid development from imperialism to communism to its present day. The stories are always compelling, whether describing the anti-intellectual crackdowns of the Party or equally paying tribute to the benefits of Mao's reforms, and despite the intensely personal nature of the interviews (one author speaks almost entirely about her mother's illness and her widower father's attempts to rebuild his life) one is left with as vast and insoluble an image of modern China as anything else Jia has sketched in Platform, Still Life or the rest.