Saturday, 8 September 2007

Pickpocket (1998)

Chinese title: Xiao Wu.

Xiao Wu (1998)
This is a story about our title character Xiao Wu or Li'l Wu. Despite being a pickpocket, he isn't all that bad once you get to know him. And the whole movie is letting the audience to come to know this marginalised character living in a small town in China.

While he picks other people wallets for cash, he takes the trouble to return their ID cards by depositing them into a post box so that his victims would get them back (from the police). While he might steal other people's money, he's victim of a girl who steals his hearts, and unlike him, returns nothing to him.

I think what makes this movie noteworthy is the popular documentary-like , social realism style of directing. Everything in the movie is shot with a total honesty without any kind of embellishment. This is a typical anathema to the make believe style of commercial cinema. The excellence of this directing technique matched only by the master of this medium - Zhang Yimou in such movies as Not One Less (1999), and The Story of Qiu Ju (1992). And so, if you like these 2 movies, you would likely to like this film, and vice versa. And this film is made between 2 of Zhang Yimou's movies I mentioned above.

There're also many interesting glimpses into the small town in China, e.g. the KTV parlour, the grubby bath-house, the dingy street scenes, the outdoor pool tables, the ease of making appearances on local TV, and the chain smoking as cigarettes are offered as a form of social greeting (or what I would like to call "the Chinese handshake").

P.S. this movie poster is obviously for the DVD box set that comes with 2 of Zhang Kejia's movies: Unknown Pleasures and Pickpocket. However, the 2 actors appear on this poster played in Unknown Pleasures, not this movie.

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