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Cannes 2011. Snapshots: Zou Peng's "Sauna on Moon"

How can one of the oldest trade on Earth (prostitution) enter modernization in the so-called harmonious Chinese society?
How can one of the oldest trade on Earth (prostitution) enter modernization in the so-called harmonious Chinese society? Considering that prostitution is officially forbidden. Considering also that corruption can solve (almost) any problem. Wu is a businessman without an opportunity: in his Macau "Chang'e" Sauna business is slow, debts are heavy. Some solutions are at hand: motivate the employees, provide new attractive girls and extended "services." The story involves a small-time pimp and his troupe of girls supervised by single mother Li, a few rich "bosses," some corrupted policemen and a young factory worker.  With the help of genius cinematographer Yu Lik-wai (long-time partner to Jia Zhangke), Zou Peng turns his back on all the possible clichés of the "Chinese film for foreign festivals." No semi-documentary heart-breaking social comedy, no period-oriented conventional melodrama—more a playful follow-up to Jia's witty "sci-fi" scenes in Still Life. Playful yet dramatic, tender and violent, funny and frightening; there are mixed atmospheres in each scene, in each character, in each episode. Plus a range of meaningful, though discrete, signs: some rabbits (since the Chinese hare lives on the moon) and other important animals, a presence of gods and above all Moon Goddess Chang'e (the film's original title) whose legend is about travelling and separation, an attention to dialects (the best way to identify a migrant worker). All the signs and all the characters converge into the finale where bombastic official propaganda about the launching to the moon of the satellite "Chang'e 2" and showdown of characters combine in melancholic resolutions. Right: modernization and harmony have a terrible price. The first to pay it are the girls: the first to be "industrialized" in the great competitive race. No wonder they want to fly away.

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