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Tang (Wang Shuangbao) and Song (Li
Yixiang) are products of the new
After they are presented with 30,000 yuan
in compensation (about $4,000) for their just cremated "relative",
they dump the ashes on the side of the road the minute they are out of sight
from the mine. Upon arriving in a nearby provincial city, they wire most of the
money back home and spend the rest partying with prostitutes. In a scene that
conveys the caustic sensibility of director Li Yang, who made the film in
secret and is an exile in
Even under the new rapacious system, there are still
familial bonds based on traditional village life that are not so easy to break.
One of the miners sends money home dutifully for his teenage son's school fees.
Eventually they stumble across a sixteen year old boy named Wang Baoqiang (Yuan Fengming) shaping
up at a day labor recruiting station on the street. His own father left home a
year earlier in search of work and he cannot afford school fees. (
The miners have found their next victim.
After providing him with a fake ID stating that he is 18 and training him to identify himself as their nephew, they go off to a local coal mine situated in about as foreboding a landscape ever seen on this planet. Bone-dry and windswept, it looks like something transmitted back from the Orbiter camera on Mars. Like everything else in this remarkable film, it is shot on location. The miners are all actual miners who were happy to work on the film.
According to a profile on Li Yang that appeared in the
"Blind Shaft" excels on a number of levels. As a character study, it is driven by the contrast between the cynical scam artists, who have the raffish charm of Fagin and Bill Sikes in Charles Dickens's "Oliver Twist", and the na´ve youth they take under the wing who is as trusting as Oliver Twist himself. Their kindness toward him, such as it is, evokes fattening up a turkey for a Thanksgiving dinner. While not intended to give away too much about the film's plot, let's just say that one of the miners eventually is torn between slaughtering the boy or keeping him as a pet--just like a turkey one grows too attached to.
It is also a stunning portrait of a
(Unfortunately, I attended "Blind Shaft" far too late--it closes tonight in NYC. If it ever shows up on television or in DVD/Video, it is not to be missed.)