Asian Film Strike

SEVENTY-SEVEN DAYS (2017) short review

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Based on a true story, Zhao Hantang’s Seventy-Seven Days follows Yang Liusong (Zhao himself), a man determined to cross the desolate, uninhabited area of Changtang, at more than 4,500 meters of altitude on the Tibetan plateau, and to cross it horizontally, which is the most perilous way of going about it, and will take him at least 80 days, exposing him to extreme weather, lack of water and hostile wildlife including yaks, bears and wolves. But the memory of a brief yet intense encounter in Lhasa with a wheelchair-bound woman, Lan Tian (Jiang Yiyan), keeps him going forward even when all seems lost. The majestic, austere beauty of the Tibetan landscapes – lovingly captured by demi-god cinematographer Mark Lee Ping Bing – is almost overshadowed by the beauty of Jiang Yiyan in this passable travelogue. It was shot at the same altitude as the events it depicts and is full of interesting details about the dangers of the Tibetan plateau, such as how blissful snow, ending a life-threatening water-shortage for Liusong, can turn into a nightmare as it melts into a flood. But life-affirming platitudes about freedom (often worthy of a facebook inspirational slideshow) abound, and little is explained or shown of why Liusong has embarked on such an adventure, and thus the film’s emotional resonance lands squarely on Jiang Yiyan’s shoulders. Her vivid, heartbreaking performance as a woman putting on a brave front but crumbling inside, leaves a much stronger mark on the film than Zhao Hantang’s slightly bland lead. **1/2

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