Utpal Borpujari

May 26, 2009

DVD Review: Platform, Unknown Pleasures

By Utpal Borpujari

Jia Zhang-ke, hailed as a torch-bearer of the “Sixth Generation” of Chinese directors, made “Platform” (Zhan Tai, 2000) and “Unknown Pleasures” (Ren Xiao Yao, 2002) as part of a trilogy that started with Pickpocket (Xiao Wu, 1997).

Focusing on issues relating to marginalized individuals in the contemporary Chinese society where Communism and open market economy are striving to exist together, these two films thematically take forward his brilliant debut’s core concerns.

Like the pickpocket of his first film, the protagonists in Platform and Unknown Pleasures too live in the shadows, and are primarily lonely individuals seen as wastrels and drifters by the civil society. These are the people who reflect a large section of young Chinese who are being dazzled by the sudden changing lifestyle of modern China as opposed to the staid, Communist-regime dictated society till sometime back.

Both the films seek to hold a mirror to the Chinese society, reflecting on the dilemmas the young generation is facing apparently without any way out. “Platform”, described by some as Jia’s most-ambitious film yet, is the story of a group of young musicians in the small, provincial town of Fenyang who are suddenly exposed to the world of pop music, long hair, privatization and co-habitation without marriage. With a run-time of 149 minutes, this film in Mandarin/Shanxi language was nominated for the Golden Lion in the 2000 Venice Film Festival.

“Unknown Pleasures” carries Jia’s concerns about the society in transition further, this time through two young men. A poignant yet witty comment on the new Chinese society, it depicts at a leisurely pace how the new generation is getting bifocal between choosing their careers and enjoying the suddenly-available pleasures of life.

The two films, viewed along with the first of the trilogy, provides a subtle study of the politics of change and its impact on the young generation.

(Platform / Unknown Pleasures; NDTV Lumiere / Excel Home Videos; Rs 499 each) 

(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 17-05-2009)



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