A terrific film noir produced in China, So Close to Paradise was made in the late Nineties, banned for three years by the Red government, and—hooray!—subsequently released in the U.S. It didn’t make me think of Forties and Fifties Hollywood, though, but rather of the lofty Euro film of Antonioni and lesser artists, what with its angst, its silence and its careful visuals. The “music” of the picture are the sounds of a tugboat, heavy rain, high heels on pavement and—well, sober tones. Lamentably, serious cutting was done by the Chinese studio, but filmmaker Wang Xiaoshunai‘s talent still shines through. The thin plot is quite digestible, and actress Wang Tong is lovely as she credibly plays a worldly nightclub singer.
A character called Gao Ping (Guo Tao), a man of greed and lust, is one of the film’s three losers. The other two are Gao’s young pal Dongzai and Wang’s nightclub singer, Ruan Hong. After his partner-in-crime makes off with Gao’s stolen money, Gao tracks down Ruan because she knows where the jerk can be found. In fact he has to abduct her, and he rapes her. Amazingly, the two become a couple (don’t tell the feminists). Thereafter there is trouble. Angst. Also, however, the plot loses its hold on us (it did on me). Only the technical sophistication begins to matter, but so be it. I still had a good time with So Close to Paradise.
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