Saturday, April 23, 2011
The High Life (寻欢作乐)
Nobody can ignore the economical boom in China over the last few
decades. A huge army of super rich and middle-class is born in China. Last
year, China became the second largest economy in the world, only
behind the Unite States. Yet, underneath those glamorous achievements,
there are millions of Chinese people who are left behind. They
struggle to make ends meet and desperately searching for a way to
These are the people who have been the subjects of Chinese director Zhao Dayong's (赵大勇) documentaries. He continues to tell their stories in his narrative feature debut "The High Life" (寻欢作乐 | China 2010 | in Chinese | 96 min.), a film that is certainly not singing a harmony note in the chorus of celebrating China's economical progress.
Jian Ming (Liu Yanfei) is a small time crook who sets up a job referring stand on a street corner for new comers in Guangzhou. Instead of introducing jobs, he collects the money and posts their pictures on his bedroom wall for his own amusement, when he is not singing opera on top of the roof to escape the reality. However, when he meets Xiao Ya, he falls for her and actually lands her a job at a hair salon. That job doesn't go well when a local gangster shows up at the salon.
Then, unexpectedly, the film abandons all these characters, but turns its (very expensive) lenses to a railroad police, Dian Qiu (Shen Shaoqiu), who enjoys hear inmates reading "trash poetry" as shown in the opening of the film.
You can come up your own explanation about the sudden switch of film's protagonists and story line. I believe the filmmaker is determined to use this real life "trash poet" Shen Shaoqiu 沈绍裘 (see his blog: 典裘沽酒) to shout out his anger and despair. If nothing else, its shocking value fits the bill.
Here is an example of anti-culture and anti-establishment "trash poetry" by this real life railroad police Shen Shaoqiu when he refers to one of the most prominent figure in Chinese literature Lu Xun (鲁迅):
"It must be said, Sir, with your cock last century,
After all, the police's life is not that much different from Jian Ming's fate, perhaps the only difference is that he writes "poetically."
"The High Life" (寻欢作乐) is showing at The 54th San Francisco International Film Festival, April 21 - May 5, 2011. Click on the SFiFF54 logo on the right for showtime and ticket information.