Songs My Brothers Taught Me

Songs My Brothers Taught Me ★★★★

This is exactly the type of aesthetic that I love in films. It's not beautifully polished, with academy award winning actors delivering precisely written dialogue. It's real people, in some form of their real lives. It is cinema as empathy and Zhao is just about one of the most empathetic filmmakers working today. Songs My Brothers Taught Me doesn't have a message, it simply shows us a life that we will never live and lets the film speak for itself. Zhao's power comes from her subtlety. Her understated style is powerful emotionally and politically.

Making a film that is so close to life brings with it a certain jagged style. We don't have professional actors, but what we do have is a messy authenticity. But where this film excels is in Zhao's use of images. Just as in The Rider, she is so masterfully at capturing the sweeping beauty of the great plains. And while the badlands might be inherently photogenic, even more amazing is the beauty we find in the built landscapes, in the run downs rooms and in the people that make up this tapestry. It's that blend of amateurish spontaneity and transcendent artistry that makes this film special.

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