Miff 2011 Film Review: The Piano in a Factory (Gang de qin)

24 Jul

The fun never stops on the steppes!

This is a Chinese film informed by it’s proximity (physical and spiritual) to Soviet Russia: the music, the visuals, the overwhelmingly ugly scenery, the scrap metal. It is also the gallows humour of people who exist in a state of constant ugliness.

The gang of friends in question scrap and fight and drink in the industrial wasteland of a desolate city in Northern China. Accordionist Chen is desperate to keep custody of his daughter, who as a fairly sensible little girl wants to live with her materially wealthy mother. Chen reckons a piano ought to do just the trick to keep her with him, and enlists his buddies to procure one by any means necessary.

This film is a perfect cinematic relative of the Steel Piano they wind up creating: a labour of passion whose faults (weird framing, poor film stock, pacing issues, etc) are part of it’s safety-pinned charm.  And they know the hideous landscape, cagey little shacks, butchered pigs and ubiquitous smoke stacks would be unbearable if these people never got to have a good time. So we get drunken parties and (sometimes wildly inappropriate) songs. In the end, this is a film about what it takes to keep hope alive in a place that doesn’t kill you, just bores you until you wish you had been. That sounds depressing, but it isn’t: it’s a funny, sweet rag-tag affair.


by Lizzie Lamb (www.thechopbuster.com)


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