I finally watched a movie (my only downtime this past weekend amid a grading spree!) by Wang Xiaoshuai, So Close to Paradise. The “Director’s Interview” at the end of the film explains that the film had to go through three cuts before it passed government censors. Wang’s career is well-established now, but in the 1990s he was as cutting-edge as they come, creating movies about life in China completely outside official channels. This film, which has been around for at least eight years, illustrates how grim life can be for many rural folk and immigrants who make their ways to large Chinese cities, seeking good jobs and better lives.
A biographical analysis of Wang describes his position within the “Sixth Generation” of Chinese filmmakers (a term I’ve at least heard before!) These directors are characterized by the feature of being young enough not to have had first-hand knowledge of the brutal Cultural Revolution (a label which always struck me as “sounding” like “a good thing” but was actually an intensive gutting of what we might retrospectively label as China’s then-contemporary creative class). Referring again to the Director’s Interview, Wang foregrounds the viewpoint of individuals instead of presenting storylines emphasizing the official doctrines of collectivity. I suppose that subjectivity is why the film’s storyline did not challenge my perception as much as some foreign films. Instead, I found the poverty and exploitation familiar as another example of the depressing patterns of capitalism. Reminds me of Burke’s critique of the “disorder of overproduction” in CounterStatement:
…instead of having all workers employed on half time, we have working full time and the other half idle, so that whereas overproduction could be the greatest reward of applied science, it has been, up to now, the most menacing condition our modern civilization has had to face. (p. 31)