Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Nathanael Hood travels down THE ROAD (2016) DOC NYC 2016
And yet, the film critic in me feels frustrated by The Road. Here we see a film fail its subject matter, deflating a riveting subject with sloppy organization and a decentralized narrative. The film is divided into four arbitrary sections: The Locals, The Laborers, The Fighters (aka the aforementioned gangsters), and The Singers (aka members of the CPC). But instead of providing structure, they keep the film from developing any kind of internal rhythm. What’s the point of making a big to-do about focusing on certain groups of people in each section if prominent persons keep reappearing in each of them? If the Laborers and their indignities are a constant presence throughout the whole film, why give them their own section? Why have a section in the first place?
I still feel that The Road is a crucial piece of documentary filmmaking. If anything, it provides a look into a China that the CPC would rather not be acknowledged, particularly as they reach their aforementioned 100th anniversary in 2021. There are strokes of genius, especially in the last fourth where soul-crushing statistics about work-place fatalities and bridge collapses are juxtaposed with CPC propaganda. But The Road still underwhelms. And for a subject this important, that shouldn’t be possible, let alone permissible.