Fri, Mar 05, 2004 - Page 20 News List

`Blind Shaft' plumbs the depths of China and hits a rich vein of film talent

A gritty and illuminating film from first-time director Li Yang gets to grip with the problems faced by many of the country's people as the economy develops

By Yu Sen-lun  /  STAFF REPORTER

Blind Shaft has picked up dozens of international awards.

PHOTO COURTESY OF MATA

Blind Shaft (盲井) toured various international film festivals last year and the debut film of director Li Yang (李楊) won dozen of awards, impressing critics with its broad and powerful themes.

It is different from the work of other so-called fifth-gene-ration filmmakers -- whose works are sometimes criticized for being stereotypical of Chinese filmmakers -- and Li tells the story in an almost documentary style, but with the help of an excellent script to provide a solid plot.

Based on the short novel Shen Mu (神木) by Lao She (老舍), Blind Shaft is a tale of greed and compassion. Two itinerant miners, Song Jinming and Tang Chaoyang risk their lives working under dangerous conditions and develop questionable morals in order to survive.

The film begins in the dark caves of one of the many illegal Chinese coal mines, where Song and Tang are working with Tang's brother Chaolu, who has just arrived. In the depths of a mineshaft, the two kill Chaolu with a pickax and engineer the collapse of a mine wall to make Chaolu's death look like an accident. Song and Tang then go on to extort money from the mine's management, who are under pressure to cover up the

accident.

After leaving with their hush money, the pair spend their ill-gotten gains on women and song and in time find another potential victim, this time an innocent 16-year-old boy named Yuan Fengming, who has been forced to quit school due to his father's disappearance. Tang agrees to help Yuan find a job at a coal mine, but only under one condition -- he must agree to pretend to be Song's nephew.

The three find another illegal mine where the working conditions are even worse. "Take it or leave it. The only thing that China doesn't have is a shortage of people," the foreman says.

Film Notes:

Blind Shaft

Directed by: Li Yang

Starring: Wang Shuangbao (Tang), Li Yixiang (Song), Wang Baoqiang (Yuan)

Running time: 92 minutes

Taiwan Release: today

Language:

Mandarin with Chinese subtitles


This time, Song and Tang's scheme does not go so well. As the pair befriend Yuan, the boy's simplicity and naivete alters the partners' relationship and there is a surprise ending.

Wang Shuangbao (王雙寶) vividly plays the mean and cold-hearted Tang and Li Yixiang (李易祥) performs admirably in the role of Song, whose conscience is pricked by the goodness of Yuan. As for Wang Baoqiang (王寶強), who plays the role of the young victim, it is such a natural performance that it is hard to believe that he is a first-time actor.

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