New Old Play

Magnificently layered historical once tragedy and farce, it breathes new life into a story as old as civilization.


A New Old Play

Qiu Jiongjiong’s visually magnificent new film is a unique hybrid of fiction, historical reminiscence, and experimental theatre. Its overview of China from the 1930s to the 1980s is filtered through Qiu Yu, a Sichuan opera 'clown' based on the director’s own famous grandfather. As Qiu Yu negotiates his entry into Hades with two comic sidekicks, his departing soul reviews his childhood, his performances, family tragedies, and political perils.

This film of unparalleled aesthetic and political courage takes place in modestly spectacular visual settings: Qiu, a famous artist, has handcrafted an exquisite miniature model village, a fantastical river landscape, a golden sun in the shape of a Buddha’s head. These images set the scene for a constantly shifting acting style that embraces absurdism, political melodrama, comic vaudeville, and ritual tableaux. We are offered memory as a re-lived collective experience, insistently comic in its mode, but expansively humane in its vision. —IFFR

“A playful and vital work, a sincere act of love for a land and a culture steeped in history, a hymn to the Dionysian spirit of art.” —Eddie Bertozzi, Locarno Film Festival

“A movie we will write about for years to come. Essential.” —Martin Lukanov, Asian Movie Pulse

“Qiu has made a cleverly contained existential epic, an ode to the innate persistence of workers, artists, and people in the face of futility and poor fortune. It is a wonder the film carries it off with an empathetic sparkle—there must be some purpose to art, to life, after all.” —Daniel Kasman, MUBI Notebook

“In his film, which runs over 179 minutes, director Qiu creates a huge epochal fresco and revives the ancient Sichuan Opera tradition with the magic touch of a modern-day Méliès.” —Maria Giovanna Vagenas, Senses of Cinema

“I haven’t seen a more aesthetically (and historically) daring, brilliant independent feature from China in years.” —Shelly Kraicer, Vancouver International Film Festival

Special Jury Prize, Locarno Film Festival 2021
Special Jury Mention, Golden Apricot Yerevan International Film Festival 2021
Young Jury Prize, Festival des 3 Continents 2021
Busan International Film Festival 2021
Sao Paulo International Film Festival
Asian Pacific Screen Award 2021
Black Nights Film Festival Tallinn
Singapore International Film Festival 2021
Göteborg Film Festival 2022
International Film Festival Rotterdam 2022
First Look, Museum of the Moving Image 2022
Not Rated
Bio-pic, History
Qiu Jiongjiong
Qiu Jiongjiong
Yi Sicheng as Qiu Fu, Guan Nan as Huafeng (Qiu Fu’s wife), Qiu Zhimin as Pocky, Xue Xuchun as Chicken Foot, Gu Tao as Crooky
Richard Brody, New Yorker

In “A New Old Play,” the Chinese director Qiu Jiongjiong daringly and imaginatively dramatizes twentieth-century Chinese political history—despite ongoing censorship in China—through the epoch-spanning story of a small theatre company. The movie, which opens on May 20 at Anthology Film Archives, is ...

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