Perspectives. Archetypes. And movies
Yu Miao grew up in China before coming to study cinema in France. In 2020 she graduated from the directing department of La Fémis, the French national film school. Now living in Paris, she works in cinema as a director and screenwriter. In addition to film, she also practices photography.
I guess it´s too easy to say, it´s about perspective. It’s about the way Yu Miao shows us society. About how she shows society. But also not this our society. Because then we would have to talk about perspective again. So…
It is about our perspective of perspectives. Europeans do await, that people from outside of Europe watch us with… yeah… their own perspective. It has something to do with Plato and his idea of “ontology”. In our understanding, ontology is something bounded. Like a bubble, where some of us do live. And the others are outside.
This fact is well described by Viveiros de Castro and his sentence, that our ontology will never be understood by others. How wrong such a description is, is Yu Miao´s perspective in her work.
It is even not a foreign perspective. It is an international view. A perspective without a homeland. A placeless perspective. Deleuze would call it „nomadic“.
Perspectives has also something to do with archetypes. But when we say „archetypes“ we mostly think about Carl Gustav Jung and his idea of archetypes. Also because character archetypes are used in movies. It’s a very structuralistic idea. Where we compare character, how people act and react, and what they do in some situations. The idea of structuralism leads us to anthropology. Where not only people, and characters, but whole cultures and societies are compared.
But there is also a different idea of archetypes. And this perspective shows us Yu Miao in her movies. Her archetypes are… human. Human in a way how we can compare all of us. Human in a humanistic (and yes, anthropological) way. Human in a place, where we all are human. Besides our cultures, our languages, our beliefs. Call ist universalism. But it is more about searching for how we all are. A search for what makes a human a human.
I would say, those archetypes I can find in Yu Miao´s work are we. Are ordinary people in their life as humans. And they give me the feeling that we all are very similar. Since differences between us disappear, since the borders are blurred, we see what unites us more than what divides us as humans, I would prefer not to define it as structuralistic nor as post structuralistic idea.
Not necessarily scenes. Places. Are there also universal places? Places that exist beyond Foucault’s theory of heterotopias? Yes. There are such places. Those are, let us say, international places. Usually, there is a huge critique on such places. When we see cities across Europe, when we see how Nairobi, Sydney, and Warsaw do seem like the same place, with all their coffees, shops, and Starbucks, we will see how capitalism destroys identity. And so-called international places become a neoliberal nightmare.
In Yu Miao’s films, we can see another form of international places. And here we come back to the idea of perspective. To the idea of the perspective of perspectives. Because the places where Yu Miao places her films are… universal. But universal in the same way that her view of society is neither Western nor Eastern nor anything else. They are places that I would describe in human terms. Places inhabited by us. By human beings. Places that don’t allow for classification into one perspective, places also that are neither structuralist nor post-structuralist. Perhaps they are nomadic places. Places that move with the humans who inhabit them.
It is always very difficult to describe the work of an artist. Especially since most critiques boil down to a structuralist practice. In which the critic tries to work out commonalities. It is perhaps more interesting to note differences. Or something completely different. Every artist is looking for something in his work. Several films, books, and tracks are always a search for something.
What is Yu Miao looking for in her films?
On the one hand, they are fragments. Perhaps some that escape our attention. Perhaps they are hidden fragments of the realities of our lives. Scenes that we experience but do not perceive. Through the focus, it reveals not only the scenes themselves but also the absurd aspects of our lives. It sounds like a specifically French model, but there is more to it. In “24’58 on the Way to Dulpokanova” it is the dialogues, in “Escape” it is the signs (also a semiotic work in a certain sense). In “The Elusive Joy of Labor” is again about gestures. Perhaps more than that.
At the same time, and I find this very exciting, she is looking for a narrative. For a narrative form of expression. And in each of the films, no matter how different they may be, you see the narrative. Yes, also tension.
Soon we will discuss and describe Yu Miao’s individual films here.
Wait for the article or go to a cinema in your neighbourhood.