Diao Yinan (China, 2003)
(Zhifu). Double lives and deceptions provide the core of Diao Yinan’s DV blend of urban realism and Gogolian satire, one of the key early works of China’s then-emerging digital underground. A put-upon youth, busy slaving away at his family’s tailor shop and barely interested in his town’s epidemic of factory closures, finds his life possibly changing when he dons an abandoned police uniform. Suddenly given respect (and money, once he starts shaking down submissive traffic violators), our new man in uniform also turns his attention to a pretty pirate-VCD clerk who’s living a double life of her own as a part-time escort. Diao, an accomplished actor (All Tomorrow’s Parties) and scriptwriter (Shower; Spicy Love Soup), as director keeps the tone as casual and quiet as his hero’s unassuming life, letting the film’s identity-crisis conceits and background events—factory closures, blasé bureaucracy, left-behind workers—speak volumes.
• Written by Diao. Photographed by Dong Jingsong. With Liang Hongli, Zeng Xueqiong, Han Kai, Qin Hua. (94 mins, In Mandarin with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, From First Run Features)