Aftershock, China’s submission for Academy Award consideration in the best foreign film category, could be taken as the Titanic of the People’s Republic. It’s currently considered the top-grossing domestic film in Chinese history, and, like James Cameron’s shipwreck epic, focuses its attention on a catastrophic event that marked a fairly clear dividing point in the country’s history.
In this case, the central event is the 1976 earthquake that killed nearly one-quarter of the residents in Tangshan, a city that then tallied a population of 1 million. The unthinkable disaster was notable for its role in an ongoing cultural revolution (one which intensified after Mao Zedong died a few months later), but director Feng Xiaogang instead chooses to focus microcosmically on the plight of a fictional family, just as Cameron chose to frame the death of the Titanic around a pair of star-crossed lovers.
The true “aftershock” of the film’s title isn’t so much the result of the earth’s tremors, but instead the psychological after effects of a mother put into a Sophie’s Choice-style situation, forced to choose which of her two children she can save from the wreckage.
Boasting eye-popping visual effects and a compelling emotional drama, Aftershock is nothing if not epic. (Theater 1, 9:45 p.m.)
Other Highlights: Tuesday, April 19
The White Meadows, a difficult but highly aesthetic-looking Iranian film. (Theater 4; 6:30 p.m.)
Dumas, in which curly-’fro Gerard Depardieu once again gnaws the scenery right off the walls, which in this case, look quite opulent. (Theater 2; 6:45 p.m.)
Minnesota Narrative Shorts, see all the new and emerging Minnesota talent as they stuff a quart’s worth of cinematic ice cream into a pint-sized running time. (Theater 1; 7 p.m.)