One Second (2020)

Yi Zhang,
A movie fan in a remote farmland strikes a relationship with a homeless female vagabond.
  • 7.1 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-13 Added:
  • Jingzhi Zou, Writer:
  • Yimou Zhang, Director:
  • Producer:


9 / 10

Warm small town (Chinese style) story set during the Cultural Revolution

After a long line of patriotic films, which won't resonate beyond China's borders, One Second was a very welcome film.

The film is about an escaped convict who wants to see his daughter in a newsreel, the reel of which becomes the focal point of the movie. Throughout the movie, the main protagonist chases an orphan girl who steals the newsreel featuring his daughter. At times absurb (reflecting the times and accompanying behavior), at others humourous, the movie is overall a warm, touching tale of how two complete strangers come together, filling a void in the other.

Zhang Yimou once again captures the beauty of the surrounding area, even if often nothing more than desert and a drab village. There wasn't a character out of place nor an actor who failed to deliver.

Highly recommend.

8 / 10

Cinema Omnivore - One Second (2020) 7.7/10

"He finds an unlikely competitor in a young girl Liu Guinv (Liu Haocun), who wants some film to decorate a lampshade for reparation. After a series of mischiefs fighting for a reel of film, which finally reaches the regulated farm where the movie is due to be screened by the veteran film projector Fan Dianying (Fan Wei), Jiusheng's concealed identity is at risk of being discovered and his foe-to-friend bond with Guinv, who is more or less his daughter's age, takes a familiar but no less affecting father-daughter trajectory. And ONE SECOND hits the bull's eye with its ending, a tactical misunderstanding brings Jiusheng back to Guinv, and his ensuing disappointment soon changes into a philosophical sigh, he is accorded a second chance to be a father figure, whereas, the film footage, buried and gone, acts like a germane symbol of a bygone era."

read my full review on my blog: cinema omnivore, thanks

5 / 10

A pretty mediocre story line and some minor flaws

There were lot of running and chasing in this movie. For the story itself, the contents were not that much, just tried to tell you how tough the Chinese people had to deal with during the Culture Revolution. The time frame background of this movie was about the last two or three years of the long 10 years long purgatory-like life and living in a remote and poor village. The Chinese under the iron-clad control of the Chinese Communist Party were suffering but already tamed thoroughly by Chairman Mao and his peers with forceful brain-washing feed. The story itself was actually not that complicated and by modern day standard, actually quite boring, a single and direct line of the development and, well, very very slow.

Two flaws that immediately caught by my eyes:1) Too many almost looked new bicycles. It's totally absurd during that poor era. And all the bikes not only looked quite new, well maintained, looked like manufactured by the same bike factory.

2) The little brother of Sissy Liu was a wrong cast. Just like those bikes, he not only not looked a bit similar to his older sister but simply looked like a modern day kid attending private school.

I could also tell that the director and the screenplay writers were very very careful not to step on the red lines stipulated by CCP's censorship.

They only feather-touched the unfair injustice when any person could be damned as a criminal and suffered so many years in hard labor and imprisonment.

The song sang by the leading young actress after the movie was not only not good but also very unnecessary.

Watchable, but not especially outstanding.

9 / 10

A self-reflecting matryoshka

I was lucky enough to see Zhang Yimou's "One Second" at the Toronto International Film Festival. Now, I'm not well versed in Chinese cinema, so I really didn't know what to expect in terms of the common genres, the narrative style, the pacing, etc.

All I can say is, I was very pleasantly surprised. The film is basically a road trip movie about two protagonists who really don't want anything to do with each other, but go through a journey that ultimately, yet ever so gradually, transforms their relationship. The plot was well-written with plausible events and very witty use of dramatic irony. In fact, this charmingly facetious tone is established early on in the movie eliciting chuckles from the audience all the way to the end.

On the topic of character development, what stood out for me was the balanced attention to both the male and female leads. At no point in the movie did I feel that one character was merely supporting the other. While it is not so rare for films to have more than one main character, I particularly enjoyed the coexistence of a male and female character in the lead roles.

I am very accustomed to seeing movies that praise individualism, the American Dream and the Nietzschean Will to Power, I had yet to see a decent film that championed communist ideals (I'm sure there must be quite a few out there - please pardon my lack of exposure and experience). This movie is centered around a propaganda piece and provides a "real-life" example of events that illustrate the ideals of camaraderie, solidarity and sympathy for the fellow man. Two characters who at first only care for their own "individual" and "selfish" well being, find themselves putting each other's best interest ahead of their own. And trust me, this is not done in a superficial, pedantic way that'll make your eyes roll (as it sometimes does in such films). In a sense, the film about a propaganda film IS an effective "propaganda" piece in and of itself.

It's hard to judge acting in a language/culture that is not too familiar. This is because any slight exaggeration or downplay of emotion may be a feature of the target culture and not "bad acting". Having said that, I found the acting in this movie realistic and believable. Organic comedy/drama bubbling out of the very carefully crafted scenarios and situations.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching this movie and look forward to exploring Zhang Yimou's other features.

7 / 10

Celebrating film or propaganda?

Whist in search of a lost film roll of utmost importance, One Second takes us on a delightful trip through the desert. The plot reminds strongly of Cinema Paradiso and doesn't add anything innovative to the mix. But it holds enough clever twists and turns to engage the audience.

The movie suffers from some minor flaws but can hide them behind the beautiful cinematography. Meanwhile, its feel-good quality prevents it from living up to the subtlety and nuance of Yimuo's earlier work. And rather than a celebration of film, it almost feels as if they are actually celebrating propaganda. Furthermore, the main character keeps making funny decisions - often of staying silent - which puts him in increasingly dire trouble.

Yet, the performances are firm, the imagery is occasionally exceptional, and Yimou's direction is refined. It's better than most movies these days, but the story itself fails to reach higher ground.