“Short Stays” @ The Opposite House

By , 2010年 7月 18日

In an effort to boost their artistic panache, the shi-shi boutique hotel Opposite House (hardly a boutique in the traditional sense, but anything looks small and delicate beside the behemoth that is the Sanlitun Village) has commissioned three short films from some of Chinese cinema’s brightest stars. All shot on location at the hotel, the series punnily known as “Short Stays” boasts films from Peng Lei (THE PANDA CANDY, also New Pants front-man), Liu Jiayin (OXHIDE), and Zhao Ye (JALAINUR).

Each of the three films, screened unceremoniously on gleaming Apple desktops in an unassuming corner of the Opposite House’s formidable lobby, are fairly characteristic, if not exceptional works by these filmmakers. United by only their unequivocal showcasing of the Opposite House’s cool-looking wooden bathtubs, each filmmakers’ distinct style is appropriately displayed. Peng Lei’s film THE ROOM WITH A CAT is a clever study in malaise, feline behavior, and features a surprisingly understated electronic score by New Pants. Zhao Ye displays his elemental visual innovation and wit amid serious matter in EXCUSE ME. As for Liu Jiayin’s 607, aficionados of Liu’s work will be tickled to watch by far the longest “short stay”—comprised almost entirely of a singular shot of hands and a plastic fish mingling in one of the aforementioned bathtubs—but her aesthetic may not be appreciated by those with shorter attention spans.

While I’m happy to see Chinese filmmakers’ work screened in China at all, the experience of watching these commissioned films on a computer screen in a hotel lobby is utterly disconcerting and a little depressing. While the hotel is to be commended for supporting Beijing filmmakers, their screening practice—sticking what basically amount to high end commercials in a lobby corner—might not be the best way to elevate Chinese cinema. The trend of using Chinese filmmakers and locations for strictly commercial ventures is on the rise (Prada hired director Yang Fudong to produce a short film featuring their 2010 menswear line and David Lynch recently completed a promotional short in Shanghai starring Marion Cotillard and shilling Dior’s “Lady Blue Shanghai” line), which has provided some worthy Chinese filmmakers with widespread exposure, but shouldn’t there be a way to promote Chinese film without simply making commercials? Product placement is a means to survival for so many filmmakers today, but The Opposite House shorts have done something entirely new—they’ve placed the film literally inside the product.

It’s an incredibly tough time for filmmakers all over the world and no director in their right mind should balk at such easy money, but I’d like to think that such talents as Liu Jiayin and Peng Lei deserve something more than a desktop computer in a fancy, vacant hotel lobby.

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