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“Blind Mountain,” “Inheritance”

“Blind Mountain,” “Inheritance” (photo)

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There are two ways to take on Li Yang’s potent, concise “Blind Mountain” (2007), and both have horns: as the howling social-critique screed it was intended to be, and as a Chinese realist version of the “white trash” exploitation epics of the American ’60s and ’70s — which makes the dynamic of the story universally human, not exclusively Chinese. But Chinese it is in actuality, through and through: simply put, unemployed college grad Bai (Lu Huang) accepts a job to collect medicinal herbs in the remote northern country, and after landing in a secluded village wakes up to find herself literally sold into slavery, as a bought-and-paid-for bride for a local ne’er-do-well. Li’s approach is dead serious, and he’s helplessly critiquing not a single issue or socioeconomic condition, but the mercenary callousness of an entire people. I’ve never been to China, but the Chinese films I’ve seen recently (including Jia Zhangke’s “Still Life,” Li Yu’s “Lost in Beijing” and Li’s own “Blind Shaft”), coupled with the various eruptions of rottenness to come from the country since the build-up to the Olympics, leave the impression of a culture sick with corruption. It’s certainly a contrast from the comparatively gentle humanist vision provided by the Fifth Generation filmmakers, who examined endemic misogyny and old-fashioned norms but pulled far short of actively lambasting the basic realities of Chinese morality.

Bai tries to escape, of course — for a good part of the film, you’re convinced these hicks got more than they bargained for with this fiery waif. But we discover that the village, which is apparently suffering from a chronic woman deficit, is all but constructed around the verities of keeping captured women in and outsiders out; there’s only one faithfully guarded road to town, mountains form natural barriers, and the townspeople all conspire together. Bai is even met by two other young wives, both of whom confess to having been sold and implore her to give up her resistance. Soon enough, of course, she is raped by her “husband” (a witless jerk who’s the constant source of derision and impotence jokes around town), and his eager mother begins the vigil for a grandchild, which we know would more or less seal Bai’s fate. An organic aspect of “Blind Mountain” that particularly stings western eyes is how little Bai is shocked or appalled by her situation when the reality dawns on her — as bizarre as the scenario appears to us, for Chinese girls, it appears to be a viable threat, and an at least semi-common problem tolerated by the authorities. It’s obvious by virtue of its gravity and realism that Li’s movie is not hyperbole, but in fact (like “Blind Shaft”) nearly reportage.

01132009_blindmountain2.jpgThe question remains throughout, as time passes and Bai’s enforced compromises grow more harrowing, will she surrender, like a female Winston Smith, to the totalitarianism of traditional peasant values and Chinese turpitude? If there’s a gripe to be had about “Blind Mountain,” it may be that it’s too beautiful in its spectacular landscapes, and with Lu, who’s quite Gong Li-ish and whose hair is too often salon-ready. But the thrust of the film is mighty and daring.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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