Themes/points to be elaborated:
Reproof of the “other” -thefting and detexturing that made the New Age intrigue with Sino-Minority fusion falter, and left Minority song-culture to the CCTV vultures.
(The film chimes in with the authenticity clamor of 2005-6, yuanshi/shengtai…. the UBT music itself seems unsure whether the Mongol jewsharp[ and ulunhuur bacsound is a refrerential cliche cliche or is part of a sythesis of sound(s) straddling S and non-S), Lots of submeanngs. The world is in fact “made-in-China”,”to order”; spits out what “globe” demands which is heraldry of itself, be it landmarks or car brands… inevitably the surrofgate artisan acquires a mimeti apprtitite (“catch-up), but art some point awakens to the fact that “trend” or “vogue” is just a street-vebdor re-export knock-off. The ardor of “ex=migrating” cools… turns in on itself, mixture of dispair, cynicism, and retreat back into the “self” adrift ion no-where-at-all. The “opening” (top-opf-the-tower), the new horizons, reveal nothing more thn what the tourist indstry7 (a globbal syndicate proxy for inetr-makreting) has predicted and fetishized, an updated ebvrsion pf the tape cvssette pitcay boom of the 80s-90s.
The fashion industry (seamstress and et.) is a allegory of “masking”, (de-aura) making the ethnic or exotic (once upon a time a seamsytress would take a year to mke ehr weedding gown, now its a cookie-cuttter mock up (mannequin) good for a season then discarded.
Urgency and Despair
But to return to our theme: the dead-ending or incompletion of the characters’ “migration” (qiantu) to or into a (non-Chinese) “world” of Opportunity and Freedom, which is how I personally “read” the film. (Thus as an ironic re-view of the Horace Greeley – esque “each to make his new fortune” sloganeering of the 80s and 90s: BBWH: [Parrot Han in BB, p 467: “These days the Slogan is Eight Immortals Cross the Sea, Each Demonstrating His Own Skills”…..])
(Cheng, 17:25): (Lying on his dorm cot with Xiaoping sitting on bed)
“My first night in Beijing, I lay in this bed… I swore I’d become somebody (hunchu mingtang) to give you a better life…. (Zhao:) This is Beijing, many talented people” [waiting to be “discovered”] (wohu zanglong 指隐藏着未被发现的人才或隐藏不露的人才). (Cheng) “Be patient, wait and see…”. (Xiaotao) “What’s this about listening to trains?” Cheng “Lie down and see”. (The trains are meant to be the “sonotrope” of yet more immigration in process, in a sense platforms for strike-breakers, except that there are no unions or solidarities under threat).
But if this is a tale of hypermigratory stress leading to disillusion, dreams ended or upended, the “hyper” is NOT that of the ever-invisible roustabout laborers of the construction sites. There is only one such clinical portrait: of “Mistress 2” (erguniang), the puckishly misnamed male steel-hauler, whose (implied) view that time is not on his side – vite, vite, seize your chance- drives him to double or triple shift work, thence predictable on-site fatal accident.
If my view of the film’s “moral stance” is accurate, the way becomes open for comparison with Franco-existentialist dramas of dis-acknowledged socio-entrapment and the madness that arises to screen the victim from his/her sotto voce awareness of having been caught in the trap.
In purely sensual terms (as opposed to ideological/philosophical), the closest to an ancestor of this “off off Broadway” filmscriptic darkness would seem to be JP Sartre’s Huis Clos (play, 1944) and/or Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, though the kinship seems more coincidental that taught. Speech and image reiterate or self-requote so relentlessly as to drive the players (and us) to the point of insanity/Munchian Scream, which however they (as intimidated inlanders) do not actually display in explicit form. (Though Zuo Xiao Zu Zhou’s version or skewing of Ulan Bator Night(s) warns explicitly that “more than one of us shall go/be driven mad in the “too rapid” chase toward the new horizon (seen in the binoculars Anna gives Zhao Xiaotao…).
1 Overdisplayed icons and Dizzying (“Can you see my Stomach Hurts…”): The “Eiffel” Tower