July 12, 2005

Blind Shaft

Blind Shaft (Li Yang, 2003)

Yes, this is indeed one of those movies that you have to watch if you want to know What Is Happening Now. In coal country, China, two men travel to mine to mine, following a scheme in which they befriend some unemployed sucker, claim that the sucker is a relation when they look for work at the mine, and then kill him (making it look like a mine accident) at the first opportunity so they can collect on the compensation money. It's a state of China movie and a excellent crime movie as well. I was reminded of some tough early-30s Warner Bros. movie like Hell's Highway, which had social problems and men pushed to their moral limits in equal measures. In a recent article on Chinese cinema, Shelly Kraicer points that post-cultural revolution China is a nation that has cut itself off from its past and is now adrift. Blind Shaft really brings this home, since its China is a place where socialism is now a word in an old-fashioned song and the only rule is get rich or be destroyed. The visual is equally bleak, with men emerging from holes in the scraped, dead earth to descend into the coal darkness. The blue coat of the prospective victim is often the only color in the shot. Neorealist genre movies get me nearly every time.


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