Gang de qin (The Piano In A Factory) Reviews
I'm not sure how many British variations I've seen on this basic story. Many, would be the short answer. They all follow the same basic plot, which we'll get to in a minute. However, it's also worth noting that, in most cases, everyone involved will be getting something out of whatever-it-is that they're doing. Usually, there's money, or impressing a girl, or something along those lines, for all. In this version, there isn't. One guy is getting paid, though he's not supposed to mention it to the others, and one man is trying to win the custody dispute that's kind of standard in movies like this, but mostly, these are people trying to help a friend. It's possible that this reflects the collectivist nature that the modern Chinese state wants to project, but it's kind of a nice touch either way. Sometimes, people do ridiculous things because those are things that will help someone they care about. It's part of my definition of friendship.
Chen Guilin (Qianyuan Wang) is not having a good life at the moment. The factory he and his friends work for has been closed. His music career isn't exactly taking off. His wife (Shin-yeong Jang) wants a divorce. And his daughter, Shu Xian (Hailu Qin), has decided that she wants to live with whichever of her parents can give her a piano of her very own. Since her mother is in a relationship with a rich conman, it seems pretty obvious which one it will be. (It's worth noting at this juncture that essentially none of the characters are named on either IMDb or Wikipedia.) However, Guilin gets his friends and girlfriend to agree to help him make a piano. They're metalworkers, right? Pianos are largely made of metal, right? So with the help of a Russian-language book on how to make pianos, they go to work. Shu Xian will get her piano, and Guilin will get custody. What could possibly go wrong?
One of the things I have to keep reminding myself about is that Shu Xian is a child and probably has no idea how much pianos cost. This is probably made even worse by the fact that they live in China, if you think about it. I really think the Communism thing has something to do with it. The movie I was most comparing it to in my head was [i]The Full Monty[/i], and while it's true that Gaz is trying to earn money to pay his son's child support and that Nate is embarrassed by his father's poverty to a certain extent, it's also true that the requirement that Gaz pay child support is not Nate's. Nate loves his father very much, all other considerations left out of it. I never get the feeling that Shu Xian even appreciates how much her father is willing to do for her. I think she's younger, but what she wants is in a totally different category. Nate has learned not to ask for big things from his father, and his only problem is that even asking for small things is pointless. Shu Xian hasn't learned that lesson.
Really, the [i]Full Monty[/i] comparisons are pretty much built in. For one thing, the way one of the characters makes money is through dealing in scrap metal, and when we first met Our Heroes in Sheffield, they were stealing a beam from a factory to sell to pay for Nate's child support. I think most of the characters here were members of the factory band before the factory closed. The mother is doing considerably better than the father, though I'm not sure what the mother's boyfriend did for a living in [i]The Full Monty[/i]. (The mother's boyfriend here sells bogus pills, yet another proof that having more regulation than China isn't necessarily a bad thing in certain aspects of life.) In this case, however, I think the father is less endearing. The child is certainly less endearing. And to be honest, I couldn't tell half his friends apart or figure out what he thought they'd be able to help him build the piano half the time. I mean, I got the black market scrap metal dealer, but that was about it.
I do like getting odd films from around the world that I'd never heard of before. As I've said, one of these days, I'm going to work out how many languages I've seen films in, though I suspect this will take some research to determine the languages of films from India and China, for starters. (This is in Mandarin, but [i]Once Upon a Time in China[/i] is in Cantonese--so Jet Li, a Mandarin speaker, is actually dubbed!) And as I said, there are some interesting differences between this story of Plucky Chinese People Fighting Obstacles and the genre of Plucky British People Fighting Obstacles, though it's more interesting in a sociological way than a cinematic way. Still, a sizable percentage of my interest in film is sociological anyway. That's even true of film that's theoretically from my own culture, though no one in the movies quite seems to live in the same world as I do. I suspect but cannot prove that it's universal--life is both nothing like the movies and more like the movies than you can possibly imagine.