The Chinese Lives of Uli Sigg

93 min. In English, German, & Mandarin w/English subtitles. Michael Schindhelm, dist. by Icarus Films, www.icarusfilms.com. 2018. DVD UPC 854565002425. public performance $348; homevideo.icarusfilms.com. $29.98. ART-GENERAL
The eponymous subject of this documentary has made great accomplishments in athletics (as a champion rower), international business, diplomacy, and art collecting, and his clinical demeanor suggests that he lives by the Chinese proverb "outside noisy, inside empty." Art historian/director Schindhelm's (Bird's Nest) film traces Sigg's career as the architect of a groundbreaking manufacturing partnership between a European company and China and as Switzerland's ambassador to that nation, gradually revealing how Sigg's growing interest in contemporary Chinese art led him to become first a collector as well as a friend of and mentor to now-lauded artists such as Ai Weiwei. The interviews, archival and newly shot footage, and artwork tell a story of life in modern China from the Mao and Xiaoping years to the present but also explore the effects of globalization and the influence of Western culture on China's traditions and ongoing development. Brief nudity in an artistic context and mature content, but suitable for young adults and up. Bonus footage includes Sigg in Beijing, 1982–85.
VERDICT Like Sigg himself, this documentary pulls off impressive tasks without pretension—a strong optional suggestion for general viewers interested in contemporary art or China.
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