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TIFF 2021 Review: One Second – “A charming tribute to cinema”

A Chinese labour camp prisoner escapes in order to see newsreel footage of his estranged daughter.

A mysterious man appears in a surreal sand dune sculpted landscape and makes his way to a desolate town where he has arrived too late to watch a screening of Heroic Sons and Daughters.  There is an opportunity to attend a second showing at a different town but this is put in jeopardy when one of the film canisters is stolen by a vagabond girl.

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One of the joys of watching the films of Zhang Yimou is his natural ability to move between epic blockbusters and intimate stories; while the desert scenes could be easily inserted into House of Flying Daggers, there are no heavy saturated colours as the palette is as sunburnt as the surrounding environment.  A dramatic image is when the protagonist looks out the projectionist window while the beam of light filters through the window below him.

Even though the story is set in 1975, the interaction between the male and female leads honours the comedic traditions from the silent era which were defined by Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. Zhang has made a charming tribute to cinema that emphasizes the communal joy of coming together for a shared experience and how much even a single image can mean to us.

The 46th Toronto International Film Festival runs September 9-18, 2021, and for more information visit    

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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