Venice 2012 – Horizons
Since the Chinese government implemented the pratice of cremation, aged coffin-maker Lao Ma now has much more free time to spend with his grandchildren. When his old friend and colleague Lao Cao passes away, he is secretly buried in a cornfield next to a lake. Lao Ma claims to have seen a white crane by the lake, but his grandchildren don’t believe him. Lao Ma goes to the lake everyday looking for the crane, hoping that it will take him to heaven Serenely resigned to his impending death but deeply afraid at the prospect of being cremated, the elderly carpenter seeks to have his last wishes carried out and his innocent grandchildren will take matters into their own hands.
Rising Chinese helmer Li Ruijun ("Old Donkey," "The Summer Solstice") makes his most accomplished feature yet with the spiritually inclined, generally light-of-touch "Fly With the Crane." Based on a novel by co-producer Su Tong, whose "Wives and Concubines" was adapted as "Raise the Red Lantern," pic explores a rural granddad's desire, as explained to his pint-sized grandson, to be buried like in the old days, though only cremations are permitted nowadays… simply told but resonant story… As the pic winds its way to its perhaps foreseeable but no less startlingly filmed ending -- in an impressive, minutes-long circling shot followed by a short, final closeup -- it manages to touch on many subjects, including the difference between generations, between city and country, and between the ways of yore and government-imposed modernity. Its treatment of death as a natural part of life, and something that perhaps merits just as much thought and attention, reps one of the pic's highlights, and the subject is discussed with the children in a straightforward manner… Technically, the film is Li's most skillful work to date… contains some beautiful images, including a sequence shot on Lake Cao Zi, as villagers harvest reeds and chase after a duck.