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                The much-talked-about elephant in Hu Bo’s “An Elephant Sitting Still” never appears onscreen, but it isn’t an imaginary beast. The sedentary pachyderm is rumored to live in Manzhouli, a city in the Inner Mongolia region of northern China, some distance from the gray industrial city where the film’s characters struggle and suffer.


                The elephant is a lure and a metaphor, a teasing reminder of a natural wonder and creaturely variety that is otherwise barely in evidence. This rigorously bleak, powerfully absorbing feature — nearly four hours long, shot in subdued colors and slow takes — posits a world from which nearly all fellow-feeling has been drained. Envy, mistrust, manipulation and blunt aggression govern human relations. Pleasure is scarce.


                Taking place over a single day and following the overlapping, increasingly desperate itineraries of four people, “An Elephant Sitting Still” encompasses two suicides, several beatings, a shooting and the death of a dog. If anything, this summary undersells the misery. Those periodic eruptions of violence are like bubbles breaking the surface of a steadily simmering pot. Cruelty and alienation go all the way down.


                Yu Cheng (Zhang Yu), a handsome, hollow-cheeked midlevel gangster, is having an affair with his best friend’s wife. The friend comes home and discovers the adulterous pair together, and jumps out the window to his death. Wei Bu (Peng Yuchang), a student at a second-rate high school, plots revenge against the bully who torments and humiliates him. (The bully happens to be Yu Cheng’s younger brother.) Their plan fails, but also succeeds in the worst possible way. Meanwhile, Wei Bu’s classmate Huang Ling (Wang Yuwen) is involved in a tawdry relationship with a school administrator. Wang Jin (Liu Congxi), a retired military officer, is being pressured to move into a retirement home by his upwardly mobile son and daughter-in-law.


                Their paths cross and recross, though not in the magical-thinking, we’re-all-connected style of the multistranded narratives — “Babel” and “Crash,” for instance — that were especially fashionable in world cinema in the early and mid-2000s. Even as Hu’s suspenseful, surprising story draws the characters toward one another, his somber, careful compositions emphasize their isolation and the social conditions that make solitude a protective strategy.


                If there is occasional tenderness — between Wang Jin and his young granddaughter, or more tentatively between Wei Bu and Huang Ling — it seems fragile and fleeting, unlikely to survive brutal Darwinian reality. Everyone is expected to be selfish, suspicious, status-obsessed and mean, and most people live up to the expectation.

                即使偶〗有温柔——比如王金和』小孙女之间,又或者韦布和黄玲之间——似乎也脆弱而短暂,不大⌒ 可能在残酷的达尔文现实中存活下来。自私、多疑、看重身份、刻薄是对每个人的期待,而绝大多数人都没有辜负这个期待。

                “An Elephant Sitting Still” shows the influence of Jia Zhangke, modern China’s cinematic laureate of disaffection and dislocation. (His new film, “Ash Is Purest White,” will open in North America soon.) But it also shows a restless and original visual sensibility. Unsparing as Hu’s anatomy of moral drift may be, there is something graceful in his sympathetic attention to lives defined almost entirely by disappointment and diminished hope. Unlike the titular elephant, the film never stops moving, and by the end, instead of feeling beaten down, the viewer is likely to feel moved as well.


                But such catharsis is shadowed by the knowledge that this will be Hu’s only film — the ambitious and imperfect testament to a career that ended when the 29-year-old director took his life in 2017. It is, of course, a mistake to draw too literal a connection between that awful fact and the unhappiness onscreen, but it’s also hard to avoid the impression that this persuasive portrait of a society in crisis is also a deeply personal statement. An act of solemn, disciplined and passionate protest.

                当你了解到这将是胡波唯手机麻将计划一的一部电影,这种宣泄随之变得黯@然——这部雄心勃勃但并不完美的电影,是这位在2017年自己29岁时自尽的导手机麻将登入演电影生涯终结的见证。把这个可怕的事实和银幕上的不快乐联系到㊣ 一起当然是不对的,但也难以避免产生这种印象,即它是对一▆个处于危机中的社会所做的有说服力的刻画,也是一份深刻的个人陈述。这是一种严正的手机麻将开奖、井然有序的、充满激情的抗议。

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