The Orphan of Anyang
Anyang de guer
Reviewed by Shelly Kraicer, September, 2001, as published in Cinema Scope magazine (see below).
Single and in his 40s, Yu Dagang is a recently unemployed worker who cant even afford to eat. In a prologue, he listlessly wanders around devastated, postindustrial landscapes; the films action begins with his efforts to barter now-useless company ration coupons for cash to buy food. At a noodle stall, he finds an abandoned baby; its mother, Yanli, has left a note promising to pay for the babys support. Desperate, Dagang takes it home. Yanli is a prostitute and the desultory girlfriend of Boss Side, a small-time triad boss with a snazzy entourage of sharply dressed goons. After a couple of nearly silent meetings with Yanli at a noodle restaurant, Dagang, originally intending to return the baby, decides not only to keep it, but also to invite Yanli to join this impromptu family. When Boss Side is diagnosed with cancer, he returns to collect the baby, his only heir. A fight with Side leaves Dagang in prison, and Yanli alone with her child. The film ends with her arrest in an anti-prostitution raid: we see her hand the baby to a stranger just before she is arrested, and an epilogue seems to reunite the family, if only in her imagination.
Granted, this doesnt really sound like the stuff of comedy. But Wangs method of shooting distances the viewer from the action, lends irony to the characters situations and throws the events of the story into unexpected, disorienting contexts. His actors are all nonprofessionals, and, like Bresson, he seems to have coaxed most of them to be as inexpressive as possible. Orphan looks like it was shot using only natural light, completely on location, though this may not have been a choice at all. Without script approval, independent Chinese directors cant shoot in studios, and as long as they dont draw undue attention to themselves, they can get away with filming in apartments or on the street: Chinese official surveillance cant be bothered to notice, much less prohibit, this kind of filmmaking. At most, it will restrict a films access to domestic distribution, and can make a directors subsequent collaboration with state studios and their resources difficult or impossible. [...]
email the website editor
all content © 1996-2002 Shelly Kraicer