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Reveries of the Golden Triangle: <i>Fujian Blue</i> playing Friday

Fujian Blue (dir. Robin Weng)

Robin Weng’s acclaimed feature Fujian Blue will screen at Asia Society this Friday, April 16, 2010 as part of the series “China’s Past, Present, and Future on Film.” dGenerate’s Kevin B. Lee will introduce the screening.

You can use discount code asia725 to buy tickets at the $7 member rate. Tickets can be purchased at the Asia Society website or at the Asia Society box office.

Fujian Blue (Jin Bi Hui Huang) Robin WENG (WENG Shouming). China. 2007. 87 min. Narrative. Digibeta. Friday, April 16, 6:45 pm

Here’s an exclusive review of the film by Mike Fu:

Subtropical reveries of money, sex, and power dominate the golden triangle of southern China in this gritty neorealist drama from Robin Weng (Weng Shouming). Featuring idyllic natural landscapes side by side with Fujian province’s urban sprawl, Weng’s narrative follows a group of young hoodlums circulating carefree in a vapid nightlife of karaoke bars and dance halls. By day, they pursue a more malicious endeavor to extort money from local housewives, whose husbands have made their fortunes abroad and left them floundering at home. The film opens contrasting rows of decrepit houses with breathtaking mansions, reminiscent of a southern Californian suburb, glistening beneath the sun. Already the dichotomy of contemporary Chinese society becomes apparent: the rift between haves and have-nots threatens to grow ever wider, and the stakes only become higher for a younger generation willing to risk everything.

Far from the reach of Beijing’s tendrils, the ne’er-do-wells seem to flaunt this lack of governmentality with abandon were it not for a few run-ins with the law. Only then does their uneasy relationship with the state come into focus, but it’s brushed aside just as quickly in pursuit of their dreams to find wealth overseas. We’re told at the very beginning that Fujian is notorious for its human trafficking operations, run by snakeheads who collect gross sums of money in exchange for passage to a new land. It is this transitory sense of being in-between that renders the social fabric unstable and nearly illusory. On the busy avenues, young girls from northern provinces dance and sing, Standard Mandarin vies for primacy against local dialects in the public sphere, and sunny cityscapes mask the more sinister activities lurking just below the surface.

Fujian Blue is partitioned into two narratives, spatially dislodging the viewer from the mainland city Fuqing and onto Pingtan Island in the second half. Here we draw ever closer to Taiwan, whose peripheral presence across the Strait seems much more resonant than any gestural maneuvering from Beijing. Cutthroat economics feed the protagonists’ vices as well as their ambitions. Taiwan, then, is a specter hovering beyond the borders of the People’s Republic, signifying the chance for redemption as much as inherent authoritarian limits on Chinese mobility. Translocal Hokkien dialect competes on both sides of the Strait with homogenized Mandarin at the national level, mounting tensions as palpable as the impending typhoons that ravage the coast. In Pingtan, reunification is a mirage just beyond the horizon, chimerical, collectively imagined, just as individual aspirations for prosperity.

Stunning cinematography and understated acting merge for a rapturous experience in Fujian Blue. The film’s depiction of visceral human realms runs akin to the uneven development memorialized in Cuban cinema of the 1960s, an elegy to incertitude amidst the spiritual malaise of transitioning societies. Weng’s directorial debut reveals an up and coming talent whose keen aesthetic sensibilities become the vehicle for a vibrant portrait of freewheeling youth culture in China today.

Mike Fu is a graduate student in Chinese cinema at Columbia University.

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