"Bracketed by stunning long shots taken from the front of a moving freight train, Wang Bing’s epic, three-part documentary, “Tie Xi Qu: West of Tracks,” is an astonishingly intimate record of China’s painful transition from state-run industry to a free market. Filming between 1999 and 2001, Mr. Wang and his sound engineer, Lin Xudong, painstakingly document the death throes of the Tie Xi industrial district in the city of Shenyang, in northeast China, a once-vibrant symbol of a thriving socialist economy (...) In Part 1, “Rust,” we enter the decaying, state-owned factories where the few remaining workers toil in an inferno of smelting furnaces and particulate matter so dense they can barely see. Some are receiving medical treatment for lead poisoning, and most have not been paid in months. Using only natural sound and a fly-on-the-wall camera, Mr. Wang listens to their break-room worries about impending layoffs and disappearing pensions, catching the smoke from their cigarettes as it mingles with furnace gases and countless unidentifiable emissions. Filled with obsolete equipment and stagnating pools of toxic waste, these hazardous spaces of the factory floor project a forlorn beauty as poignant as the lives they shelter."