Cultural taxi I
China's cultural cognoscenti have dubbed the beloved miandi minivan
a pop icon, winning the squat yellow roadbug a coveted place in the
annals of contemporary PRC history.
Following years of acid abuse at the hands of crass cabbies and angst-ridden
passengers, the dinosaur of the mainland's mass transit maw has been
reserved a coveted place in the Beijing History Museum.
Curators, however, have been befuddled by a city government regulation
requiring the museum miandi to be in pristine condition and street legal.
Faced with the daunting prospect of finding an untarnished taxi, the
museum has taken out adverts in local newspapers offering reams of renminbi
for information leading to the discovery and capture of the endangered
Cultural taxi II
Doyenne of documentary cinema Ning Ying will take filmgoers on a raucous
ride through the world of a lovestruck Beijing cabbie in her new flick
I Love Beijing.
Currently on location at an expat hangout near you, Ning's first production
in four years follows a twenty-something taxi driver through the capital's
backalleys as he falls slowly in love with the mellifluous mantra of
a female radio host.
After a chance meeting, the femme fatale lures the cabbie into the floating
world of Beijing's Dragon Seal-sipping elite, and the film draws to
an end as both driver and diva lose themselves in fin-de-siecle decadence.
Ning, famous for her sensitive and humorous takes on the capital's cops
and Peking Opera underworld, hopes to premier the work at the millennial
film fest at Cannes.
Assassin's Real Victim?
Chen Kaige's latest experiment in celluloid indulgence, Assassin, has
hit theaters throughout the capital, nearly one year after an invite-only
premier of the historical epic in the Great Hall of the People drew
tired yawns of protest from China's glitterati.
An abbreviated version of the ponderous, stiffly-acted effort re-premiered
in early August, backed by a massive publicity push and a free full-color
booklet detailing the convoluted plotline for vacant viewers.
Despite the effort, Chen's magnum opus continues to challenge the movie-going
middle class, with many choosing the cartoon classic Lotus Lantern over
his tale of power, passion and betrayal in the Qin court.
More than three years in the making and weighing in as the mainland's
costliest film ever, Assassin may yet strike a fatal blow to its true
target-Chen's career. Faced with an avalanche of vocal criticism, even
the august filmmaker has begun worrying out loud that this work has
reduced him to a mere 'joke.'
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Testy teens in the southwestern city of Chengdu are making a bid for
Beijing's crown as the capital of Chinese rock, mixing grunge metal
and fuzzed-out phunk with a smattering of local spice for an all-original
Boasting one of the earliest rock scenes in the mainland and a pristine
punk pedigree, Chengdu has turned up the heat on Beijing, giving birth
to no less than 15 new bands in two years and writing a new chapter
in the Chinese rock bible.
Leading the way are arthouse rockers Spinach (Bocai) and their stablemates
Those Other Two Comrades (Lingwai Liangge Tongzhi). Formed in late 1997,
both bands were on the bleeding edge of the Chengdu invasion and are
credited for sparking the sonic onslaught of southwestern vibes.
The Chengdu spirit is also fueling a music mash in the Spring City of
Kunming, where a burgeoning band scene is chiseling a new era of China
Cool for adulating adolescent Yunnan audiences.
Ta Ma De!
And finally, Hong Kong's prudish pop press is reeling at revelations
that Dongbei diva Na Ying used-gasp-foul language on the set of a popular
Na, who has been spending time in the cultured Fragrant Harbor port
promoting her newest Mandarin release Gan Cui, made the gutteral gaffe
on a live broadcast, shocking the announcer and sending titters through
legions of pre-teen fans.
Curmudgeonly Canto critics immediately denounced her country bumpkin
mainland ways, noting that she had also recently threatened to assault
snap-happy paparazzi chasing her through the ex-colony.
Na's bellicose behavior in the usually staid world of pampered Hong
Kong cantoqueens has won her the media moniker of "violent pop princess"
as well as a well-deserved thumbs up from her earthy gemen'r (homeboys)
back in Shenyang.