Sunday, 15 November 2009


Collaging archive footage from assorted sources, infamous Situationist director René Viénet portrays a darkly humorous vision of China as a political minefield. The film seeks to expose a long-running counter-Maoist tradition by ironical veneration of the icons of Marxist China. Introducing the main players – Mao Zedong, Liu Shaoqi, Deng Xiaoping – as if they were glamorous actors, the film is mostly free of narration, an eclectic soundtrack coaxing diverse film clips together. For example, a montage of Chinese women is accompanied by an instrumental version of Je T’Aime... Moi Non Plus. The sequence is repeated immediately after, this time with a commentary that describes the case of a schoolteacher who had raped six of his female students, painting him as a bourgeois challenge to the Chinese Communist Revolution in the forties. Later descriptions of real-life struggles are attached to equally discordant images, such as kung fu movies and colourful Chinese musicals.

Viénet, well-known for his studies on China and intentionally humorous use of détournement (the art of using pre-existing cultural items as a basis for new works that subvert them), lived in China briefly in the sixties, and was actually exiled for his anti-Maoist beliefs. His two earlier films, Can Dialectics Break Bricks? and The Girls of Kamare, dubbed existing Chinese and Japanese films with new dialogues recognising the potent violence of language. Here, the process is marginally less farcical, and Viénet’s controversial juxtapositions create meaning rather than destroying it, but generally the product is too haughty for its own good.

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