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‘Wood and Water’ review: A German retiree discovers Hong Kong

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In Jonas Bak’s exquisitely crafted first characteristic, “Wooden and Water,” a widowed German mother’s retirement from her church job and emotions of loneliness spur a visit to go to a faraway son in Hong Kong, which additionally turns into a approach for her new self to reckon recollections and loss with an unsure future.

The delineated settings, captured with the intimate grain of 16 mm, couldn’t be extra unalike in power: the verdant serenity of a Black Forest village and the neon-and-steel bustle of a city-state within the grip of historic protests. Bak visually connects these two atmospheres in a patiently virtuosic lengthy take pointed upward from a transferring car as fleeting treetops on the sting of the body segue into the darkness and pulsating fluorescence of a tunnel, after which we emerge into what looks like a flower mattress of high-rises. The collapsed distance is disorienting but additionally unusually wondrous.

Bak solid his personal mom, Anke Bak, as his touring protagonist, and she or he’s a singularly genuine presence, whether or not alone along with her ideas looking a window or partaking with strangers in an unfamiliar metropolis: a younger roaming Australian, a useful doorman, a fortune teller’s translating pal. The son isn’t round, save the one behind the digital camera, a curious and affecting mix of narratively externalized guilt and filmmaking devotion that solely deepens as the truth of her scenario sinks in.

Juxtaposing nature’s comforting placidity and an city mélange during which freedom is all the time in flux, “Wooden and Water” breathes with unforced majesty about what’s unhappy and exquisite in moments of nice change — story, temper and near-documentary-like statement are in an exquisite concord right here. Within the abiding stillness of its photographs and pacing is a way of life because it’s lived and, hopefully, appreciated. It makes for a exceptional debut characteristic in that respect, since this might simply be a extra veteran artist’s summing up about time spent trying to find strands of house in locations outdated and new.

‘Wooden and Water’

In German, English and Cantonese with English subtitles

Not rated

Operating time: 1 hour, 19 minutes

Enjoying: Begins April 15, Lumiere Music Corridor, Beverly Hills