So Close To Paradise

  • 1999
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Crime, Drama

It's probably just a coincidence: As China turns a sunny face to foreign markets, films by the so-called "sixth generation" Chinese filmmakers have become surprisingly dark. Films like Lou Ye's SUZHOU RIVER and this offering from Wang Xiaoshuai (FROZEN) are so despairing in tone and subject matter, they could be considered film noirs — spiritual kin...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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It's probably just a coincidence: As China turns a sunny face to foreign markets, films by the so-called "sixth generation" Chinese filmmakers have become surprisingly dark. Films like Lou Ye's SUZHOU RIVER and this offering from Wang Xiaoshuai (FROZEN) are so despairing in tone and subject matter, they could be considered film noirs — spiritual kin to the brooding, anxiety-ridden movies that crept in under the optimism of America's own post-WWII boom years. Wang's film is set in the grim industrial city of Wuhan during the 1980s, when official reports of economic increase lured many provincial Chinese to cities with the promise of big money. Dongzi (Shi Yu) and his roommate Gao Ping (Guo Tao) came from the same small village, but where honest Dongzi works as a carter on the docks, Gao Ping is a "businessman" who, as the film opens, is ripped off in a shady deal involving a briefcase full of cash. Determined to get the money back, Gao Ping knows just who can lead him to the thief: beautiful Vietnamese nightclub singer/prostitute Ruan Hong (Wang Tong). Gao Ping convinces Dongzi to help him kidnap Ruan Hong, and once they get her back to their cramped, dingy apartment, she and Gao Ping become lovers. But Gao Ping doesn't know who he's messing with: Ruan Hong is the personal property of the Boss, a vicious provincial gang leader who's also found a home in the underbelly of the big city. Amazingly, this bleak, thinly veiled assault on China's "make as much money as you can, however you can" mentality — and the corruption that inevitably attends it — was, unlike Wong's previous films, made within the government-run studio system (getting it into Chinese theaters was another matter entirely). But what lingers isn't so much Wong's pessimism as his poetry. The film is filled with a languid air of decadence and decay, and a touching sympathy for people whose lives are crushed in the shadows of progress. (In Mandarin, with English subtitles.)

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  • Released: 1999
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: It's probably just a coincidence: As China turns a sunny face to foreign markets, films by the so-called "sixth generation" Chinese filmmakers have become surprisingly dark. Films like Lou Ye's SUZHOU RIVER and this offering from Wang Xiaoshuai (FROZEN) ar… (more)

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