"Beijing Blues" still photos [Photo: douban.com]
Director Gao Qunshu is known as one of China's best TV series directors. His film "Beijing Blues" is based on the real-life story of renowned detective Zhang Huiling. Most of the actors that appear in the movie are amateurs, so viewers can expect something of a reality show.
"Beijing Blues" is a gathering of like-minded celebrities. Director Gao Qunshu used to be a melancholic poet who failed to publish, and today his most recent movie is along the same line of desolation. Many of the cast members are hotshots on China's most popular micro-blogging Web site Weibo, and they have gathered to speak in one voice to say that China is not happy.
The message is delivered in visuals. The story is based on the life of a Beijing policeman who received nation-level awards for excellent work in catching thousands of thieves. The film follows Zhang everywhere as he hunts down pickpockets, shoplifters and money counterfeiters. Director Gao Qunshu does not make it an interesting and exciting experience for movie-goers, but instead tries to portray the lives of the most ordinary and least privileged urban dwellers. The city of Beijing in the movie has lost all the charm and glamour of a modern metropolis usually seen in other modern Chinese movies, and in its place, the movie presents a dusty and disorderly version of the capital that is more often experienced by common residents.
The movie downplays the conflict between the police and outlaws, and even ventures to offer a little more detail about the lives of the criminals. This has created an ambiguity of stance; that is to say, the movie reveals so many things that make the ordinary Chinese unhappy, but does not place the blame on anyone.
The life of a policeman is a set of repetitious routines day after day, so the movie is practically a hodgepodge of the cases commonly handled by the police. But a movie requires a conclusion of sorts, so "Beijing Blues" includes a major case that hardly fits into the entire story, if there is indeed a story. As Zhang Huiling rounds up minor offenders, he comes across a gang leader, but most bizarrely, no explanation is given when the two soon establish a friendly rivalry. Before you know it, the case is closed with the gang leader brought to justice. It all happens so quickly that if you blink while you watch it, you might just miss it.
The amateur actors and actresses certainly had fun playing their roles in the movie, and some of them actually make the badly written story look good. And the cinematography and music are just fine.
Although the director wishes to depict a real, natural Beijing, his emphasis on unhappiness causes him to forfeit his goal in the process. The capital city is many things, but it is not always blue.