29 mai 2008

Knitting (2008/Yin)

Cannes 2008 - La Quinzaine des Réalisateurs
Knitting / Niu Lang Zhi Nu (2008/YIN Lichuan/China)

Daping and Chen Jin, a poor young couple land in the big city (which I assume is Beijing) and struggle to make some money. Chen Jin is ready to work for illegal jobs to pay the rent. But soon a third person, Haili, comes in and breaks the equilibrium with the new rules of a ménage-à-trois. She's older but uses her charm, which drives the plump, reserved, low-self-esteemed Daping jealous.

I believe they are immigrants and feel a bit alienated by the local population, thus forced to live in the same room. And the tension arises from one of them feeling alternatively left out of a duo. Daping is very young and insecure with her body, so she's sulking. Haili knows that well and keeps on pressing random accusations and blames to turn upside down the opinion of the impressionable Chen Jin, who just tries to show off with more drinking and more money. Meanwhile Daping doesn't know how to cope with her unprepared pregnancy.

This sounds like an emotional drama, but it's actually very quiet and slow, like knitting (which ends up being only a tangential gimmick from the title). The film is cut in stand alone scenes illustrating a conflict or a state of mind, observing the protagonists from a distance. Without immediate dramatic continuity between scenes, despite leaving suspended some unfinished cues. The photography is rather contemplative, and the storytelling observational. Though the melodramatic situations, even if largely underplayed, remain too formulaic to be considered a Contemplative Cinema. But the cinematography is very interesting in this category of narrative cinema.

Each protagonist hides from the others an outward bond that inevitably pulls them apart. Daping finds comfort with her best friend, who teaches her how to knit. Chen Jin gets involved in a dangerous but prosperous criminal network. Haili, the most mysterious, saves money for her child left behind, back home.

We find reminiscence of early Hou Hsiao-hsien (The Boys from Fengkwei/1983) or early Jia Zhang-ke (Xiao Wu/1997; Unknown Pleasures/2002) without reaching a comparable plot development.
It tells us about the broken lives of our contemporaries in China, the issues of having to seek work away from your home, to leave behind your family, to overcome uncomfortable situations and disappointing dreams.

The ending is my favourite scene. When Chen Jin has disappeared, and the rival women came to term together, they replay the couple situation from the beginning. Daping became motherly overprotective with a baby in her arms, and the bossy Maili fills the shoes of the man in the house by running the business and telling Daping to stop drinking bear. This is a nice picture announcing so much of what happened in the film and what will develop thereafter.

2 commentaires:

Daniel Kasman a dit…

This was one of two films I had on my Cannes schedule but was unable to see. Thanks for writing on it, I hope it makes it to NYC...

HarryTuttle a dit…

Hi Daniel, thanks for passing by.
Which is the other film you wanted to see?