Chinese Auteur Jia Zhangke to Make Lead Acting Debut in 'Pseudo Idealist'

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Jia Zhangke

The acclaimed filmmaker plays an aging artist wrestling with metaphysical questions. The film will also star Japanese actor Tadanobu Asano and shoot partially in Tokyo.

Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhangke is preparing to step in front of the camera.

The celebrated director, known for his arresting art house dramas such as The World and A Touch of Sin, has signed on to make his acting debut in Pseudo Idealist.

Jia will star in the film as a "middle-aged artist who makes new discoveries about himself, life and art by probing his feelings during the process of creation," the official plot summary released by the producers says.

The projected is directed by Cheng Er (The Wasted Times, 2016) and co-stars Zhou Xun (Perhaps Love, The Equation of Love and Death), A-list Japanese actor Tadanobu Asano (Martin Scorsese's Silence, Thor: Ragnarok) and popular Chinese television actor Allen Deng (Ashes of Love).

Jia has made several cameos in films, such as Han Han's The Continent and his own A Touch of Sin, in which he played lecherous brothel-goer to devilish effect. But he will deliver his first starring performance in Pseudo Idealist. 

The filmmakers have produced a teaser trailer for the film, which will be screened along with some additional promotional footage at the ongoing Pingyao International Film Festival, founded by Jia in his home province of Shanxi. Production on the actual feature is scheduled to begin later this year, according to Chinese movie site Mtime, with a release targeted for May 2020.

The trailer begins with Jia seated in silence with an interviewer as a piercing piano soundtrack builds over city and landscape shots of Japan, before cutting to Jia in a hotel room, seated, smoking before a nude woman, whose back faces the camera.

Back in the interview, Jia's character, presumably discussing his work as an artist, then speaks of the dualist philosophy of Descartes, and notions of the soul. The interviewer then asks, "What if there is no soul?" as the piano score again rises.

"I see, OK," he answers, subtly turning to gaze into the camera, to state: "Then we start all over again."

Watch the trailer below.