Q&A with Zhang Lu on Sept. 30

A novelist and literature professor turned movie director who has been quietly building an impressive filmography for the past 20 years, the 61-year-old Zhang Lu has now constructed an elegiac film about middle-age—its confusions and complications, as well as its beauty and grace. Set in Beijing’s Xicheng district, The Shadowless Tower (its title referring to a 13th-century Buddhist temple known to locals for its odd shape and noteworthy lack of shade) follows the compelling, distinctly human rhythms of Gu Wentong (Xin Baiqing), an aging divorcé who has abandoned his love of poetry writing to become a food critic. Estranged from his disgraced father (hauntingly inhabited by legendary Fifth Generation Chinese filmmaker Tian Zhuangzhuang) and only occasionally there for his adorable young daughter, who is being watched by his sister and brother-in-law, Gu feels unmoored from life. When, on a work gig, he emotionally connects with a fiercely independent 25-year-old photographer (the marvelous Huang Yao), he suddenly finds himself confronting his unsettled past and destabilized present. Zhang strikes a delicate balance between abstract feeling and the satisfactions of storytelling in this expansive, uncommonly sensitive portrait of contemporary living and the radiancy that can exist in both the sunlit streets and the darkest margins. A Strand Releasing release.

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