Tuesday, April 21, 2009

[SIFF09] Xiao Shu's Going Home (World Premiere)


The wayward Chinese youths in a village becomes the subject for director Hao Yifeng in his film Xiao Shu's Going Home, which is bookend by the titular character's arrival and departure both physically and in his mental maturing, and the little things that happened in his life when he hangs out with 2 good for nothing peers who spend their idle time breaking into homes, and steal for a living.

It addresses the kind of problems over here similar to latch key children, where the kids are left on their own devices without parental/adult supervision and are doing as they please. As small time hustlers, they invite themselves into unoccupied homes, and party away, taking what would be antiques and selling them for profit. For the first half of the film, we see them operating as a gang, with Bai Tiao (Yang Sen) the unofficial leader, also trying his luck at wooing a mobile phone salesgirl Xiao Jing (Hao Ying), while at the same time engaging in adultery with a married woman.

As for Ma Hou (Tang Xiong) the Bruce Lee fan, he serves only as a catalyst for something inexplicable when the law comes down hard, and got conveniently forgotten when the second half of the show seemed to return to its titular character, focusing on his relationship with Mei Fang (Wu Shan) where it's all up to romance to steer our protagonist back to the right path when the negative influences in his life are no longer omni-present.

The film looks a little raw as I presume it's shot on video, and the acting a little stilted at times in the various episodes that got played out. It deals with a waking-up call of sorts for youths always on the lookout for the easy way, and sometimes in what would be harmless shenanigans on one hand, may easily build into something worse given a sense of false courage being developed. What I didn't like was the ending, which was not unexpected, but was a little too morbid for my liking.

The complaints about city life echoed by the characters could have been sentiments shared by director Hao, as they were pretty much no holds barred. He paints a sad picture with the village boys all growing up with big city ambitions of getting rich fast and without much effort, and balances this up with Xiao Shu being the city boy who's yearning for the quieter, supposedly easier village life compared to mugging in Beijing as a student.

However, only those parallels were drawn, while the rest of the film was like a direct representation of the youths it portrayed, being wandering and aimless without clear direction.

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