XL Popcorn – A Tale of the Wind

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 837/1007Title: Une Histoire de vent (A Tale of the Wind)
Director: Joris Ivens and Marceline Loridan
Year: 1988
Country: France

What is a documentary? That’s the question that A Tale of the Wind confronted me with. When I think of a documentary, I immediately think of something like Blue Planet or Capturing the Friedmans i.e. a film or television series that tells a true story through the use of filmed footage, found footage or recreations. Whilst The Gleaners & I slightly stretched my internal definition, it still stuck true as Agnes Varda’s question of her role as a director seamlessly blended in with the other subject of her film.

Then there is A Tale of the Wind. It’s the ultimate in an unreliable narrator as we embark on a film ostensibly about documenting the wind in China, only to have dream sequences and a Peking Opera representation of the Monkey King weaved throughout. Like many directors towards the end of their career, Ivens is concerned with his mortality this film becomes a strange retrospective as we see him talk about his asthma and try to make a film that would act as a followup to his nearly 13 hour documentary about the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

One of the larger sections of the film centres around him being refused permission to film the Terracotta Warriors of Xi’an as he originally wished… which I am still not sure about how it links to the original premise. Gave a funny resolution involving live models and some tourist souvenirs though. How it relates to the wind is beyond.

Then again that’s sometimes how film making goes. It is an artform which, as long as you get something from it, is a worthy pursuit. I have no real interest in checking out Ivens’ 13 hour documentary film, but maybe some of his earlier works. After all, The Spanish Earth and …A Valparaíso were both interesting enough when I watched them many years ago.

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