Mountains May Depart (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

Jia Zhangke has no doubt made another masterpiece with a powerful performance by actress Tao Zhao.  “Mountains May Depart” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2015 Xstream Pictures (Beijing) – MK Productions – Arte France Cinema. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Mountains May Depart


DURATION: 126 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:33:1, 1:85:1 and 2:35:1), Mandarin and English with Optional English Subtitles

COMPANY: Kino Lorber


Release Date: July 12, 2016

Directed by Zhangke Jia

Screenplay by Zhangke Jia

Produced by Shozo Ichiyama, Zhangke Jia, Nathanael Karmitz, Shiyu Liu, Zhong-lun Ren

Co-Produced by Patrick Andre, Remi Burah, Zhangke Jia, Nathanael Karmitz, Shiyu Liu, Zong-lun Ren

Music by Yoshihiro Hanno

Cinematography by Nelson Lik-wai Yu

Edited by Matthieu Laciau

Casting by Jacqueline Alliss

Art Direction by Qiang Liu


Tao Zhao as Shen Tao

Yi Zhang as Zhang Jinsheng

Jing Dong Liang as Liang Jangjung aka Liangzi

Zijian Dong as Zhang Daole (Dollar)

Sylvia Chang as Mia

Mainland master Jia Zhangke (A Touch of Sin) scales new heights with Mountains May Depart. Starring the luminous Zhao Tao, the film is both an intimate drama and a decades-spanning epic about how China’s capitalist experiment has affected the lives of one splintered family, leaping in time from the past to the present to the speculative near-future. Jia’s new film is an intensely moving study of how China’s economic boom and the culture of materialism it has spawned has affected the bonds of family, tradition, and love.

From award winning filmmaker Jia Zhangke (“A Touch of Sin”, “Still Life”, “The World”) comes his 2015 “Mountains May Depart”.

Known for creating films that revolve around alienation with a minimalist/realist style and themes of alienated youth but also featuring contemporary Chinese history and showcasing Jia’s musical influences, his work has been compared to auteur, Michelangelo Antonioni.

His film “Mountains May Depart” is consistent with the style of his previous films and also would reunite Jia and his wife, actress Zhao Tao (“Platform”, “Still Life”, “With Shun Li and the Poet”) together.

The film also stars Yi Zhang (“Dearest”, “The Golden Era”), Jing Dong Liang (“Platform”, “The World”, “Unknown Pleasures”), Zijian Dong (“Young Love Lost”, “At Cafe 6”, “Young Style”) and Sylvia Chang (“20 30 40”, “Eat Drink Man Woman”, “All About Ah-Long”).

And now, “Mountains May Depart” is available on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Kino Lorber.

“Mountains May Depart” is a film which features three parts that revolve around characters in 1999, 2014 and 2025.

[Note: Please avoid reading further as the brief synopsis of each part, may contain spoilers]:

The first part is set in 1999 and begins with Shen Tao (portrayed by Zhao Tao) dancing to the Pet Shop Boys song “Go West” with other people.

Shen Tao is a vibrant woman who loves to sing, loves to dance and hangs out with her good friend, a miner named Liangzi (portrayed by Jing Dong Liang).  Tao works with her father selling electronics and just enjoys having fun.

One day, her classmate Zhang Jinsheng (portrayed by Jing Dong Liang) returns back to the village.  Zhang is successful and wealthy and came back to the village to marry the girl of his dreams, Tao.

But despite having a nice car and successful career, he can’t stand that everytime he wants to be alone with her, she brings Liangzi around.  He knows Liangzi likes her, but he thinks that because of his success and wealth, her eyes should be on him.

And he feels that three is a crowd and Zhang tries to find a way to get Liangzi out of the picture, because he feels it’s a love triangle.

The second part takes place 15 years later and it’s 2014.  We see what has happened with Tao and Liangzi as Tao has been divorced from Zhang and she has a son named Zhang Daole (a.k.a. “Dollar”) who lives with his father, going to International School and being raised privileged.  But when tragedy hits, what happens when Tao requests for her young son to visit her for a funeral.

Meanwhile, Liangzi starts to suffer symptoms from working in the mines for a long time.  He is now married with a son and decides to return back to his hometown with his new family.  But with no income, how will he pay for medical care?

The third part is set in 2025 and revolves around a grown up Zhang “Dollar” Daole (portrayed by Zijian Dong) who lives in Australia with his father, Zhang Jinsheng.

Because he was raised in Australia and attended an international school, he and his father are unable to communicate as he speaks English and his father in Mandarin.  They often have to use Google Translate in order to communicate with each other.

He is unhappy living with his father, tired of living his life of going to school and what his father wants him to do and he has not seen his mother in over a decade, he is not sure what to do with his life but he knows he wants freedom.  And that is the freedom to make his own choices without his father’s interference.

But when Dollar starts to become interested in his older teacher, Mia (portrayed by Sylvia Chang), being with her, what major decisions will Dollar make in his life?


“Mountains May Depart” is a gorgeous film and one that is quite interesting as Nelson Lik-wai Yu shoots the film in 1:33:1, 1:85:1 and 2:35:1 aspect ratios.

Featuring gorgeous scenery and the placement of the characters with mountains or temples in the background, well-framed and placement of characters are quite artistic and wonderful in symmetry and I can see aside from the alienation of its characters but its juxtaposition of people to various buildings, mountains and backgrouns, why Jia Zhangke would be compared to Michelangelo Antonioni.

Picture quality features wonderful detail, skintones look natural, black levels are nice and deep.  At times, there are archived sources used but for the majority of the film,  “Mountains May Depart” is a wonderful looking film on Blu-ray!


“Mountains May Depart” is presented in Mandarin and English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD MA and the lossless soundtrack is fantastic!  While one can expect crystal clear dialogue and also music, with ambiance, may it be a festival parade or fireworks launching in the air, can be heard via the surround channels.  Music by Yoshihiro Hanno is moving and emotional.

Subtitles feature optional English subtitles.


“Mountains May Depart” comes with the following special features:

  • New York Film Festival – (1:13:04) A conversation with Jia Zhangke courtesy of Film Society of Lincoln Center conducted by Dennis Lim.
  • Trailer – The original theatrical trailer for “Mountains May Depart”.

Watching Jia Zhangke films, you can’t help but be captivated by the film’s beauty, the truth in his films but also understand the plight of alienation surrounding his characters.

Often compared to auteur filmmaker, the master of alienation, Michelangelo Antonioni, “Mountains May Depart” is non-traditional Chinese cinema in the sense that Jia Zhangke creates cinema that needs not to be categorized with other Chinese cinema.

From having a powerful storyline, there are time where we have jarring, colorful club images of random people that breakup the storyline, almost similar to what one were used to seeing of Jean-Claude Godard back in the French Nouvelle years of audio going off and on or imagery that may or may not make sense, we see those little pieces of artistic freedom with his films that is fresh and not a care of whether or not its coherent or incoherent, imagery that fits the timeline that co-exists with the storyline of its characters.

“Mountains May Depart” is rather captivating because of how well the story is crafted.  From the primary female character, Tao dancing to Pet Shop Boys’ “Go West” but then seeing her bubbly and vibrant personality that remains strong until she becomes part of a love triangle and must decide on whether or not to divert her attention to the poor but kind Liangzi or the crude, narcissistic and wealthy Zhang.

And we see the tensions start to simmer in this love triangle as Tao looks at Liangzi as a friend, Zhang looks at Liangzi as a man who gets in the way and very much believes in “Three’s a crowd”.

But how beautiful does the film get when it’s storyline weaves into the future.  As Tao has made her choice of a man but we see the result for each of the three individuals.

While I don’t want to spoil the film, this is where Jia Zhangke’s focus of human alienation comes into play.  Choices that we make, are we always happy with them.  But what if you are not happy, life goes on and you deal with with the repercussions of the choices one makes.

The film is visually moving, the story is absolutely captivating and melancholic and “Mountains May Depart” is a film that touches your soul!

Jia Zhangke has no doubt made another masterpiece with a powerful performance by actress Tao Zhao.  “Mountains May Depart” is highly recommended!