Friday, November 6, 2009

little red riding book

in the world today all culture, all literature and art belong to definite classes and are geared to definite political lines. there is in fact no such thing as art for art's sake, art that stands above classes, art that is detached from or independent of politics. proletarian literature and art are part of the whole proletarian revolutionary cause; they are as lenin said, cogs and wheels in the whole revolutionary machine. - mao zedong [tse tung], 1942

"before you can fly. you have to be free"...

last week i finally saw mao's last dancer. or the li cunxin story.

as an ardent admirer of bruce beresford's work [breaker morant, driving miss daisy] i arrived with shining eyes & dickin's-like great expectation. while the story did deliver in epic human proportions it left me cold & flat despite the calculated beauty & craftsmanship. the dancing [chi cao], the music are unquestionably beautiful. in a word; breath-taking. however i was unsold.

the film felt like an inferior rendition of mao's little red book, a piece of contrived propaganda which condemned the chinese government but then served as a fabled artifice to elevate western principles specifically the US in contrast. all i could think of was that it became what it most sought to separate itself from. the chairman's words haunted me. with a washington accent.

for those not familiar with the successful autobiography of li cunxin, mao's last dancer is a powerful story of an impoverished chinese boy working his tiny toned ass off against all odds in a harsh communist regime buoyed by the love of his parents to become one of the most accomplished ballet dancers in the world. after being headhunted by the houston ballet on a scholarship he eventually defected to the US under dramatic headline grabbing circumstances.

fade to black, back to screen: li cunxin now becomes a capitalist pig, ditches bare-boned morals & humility along with loving american wife who helped secure him legal course to stay in the country. consumed by his need to dance & be centre stage he wins another blonde ballerina who is obviously even prettier than the last. this is how it works in movies. behold the manifestation of the consumerist american dream. PS. li cunxin is now a stockbroker. an east meets west success story.

where had the money come from & who was the intended audience of this film? was bruce selling out to the americans... i mean why were li cunxin's parent's on stage so long for? was that a political commentary, accurate depiction of real events or merely a deliberate ploy to stage emotional overkill with a less than subtle audience. not quite hollywood but close enough.

i felt a stabbing pain but not as a result of the filmmaker's intention. did the houston ballet fund this film... funnily enough li cunxin was greatly involved in an EP capacity sourcing funding [his company financed the film] and "coincidentally" the americans love the political simplicity. like taking candy from a baby.

billy elliot leaves the big bad iron scarlet curtain wolf & discovers freedom, blonde chicks, hot dogs & defects. only in america. land of the free. shame elton wasn't around for the soundtrack. although christopher gordon's soundtrack is wholly brilliant. not quite guoyue but i'm sure mao would approve.

No comments:

Post a Comment