Hidden Subtexts Offered in a Minimalist Film from Beijing
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 07/27/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Zi'en Cui is a young cinematic artist producing provocative films in China, and though this venture is not wholly successful, it does show promise of a young filmmaker of cautious bravery. FEEDING BOYS, AYAYA may not be the film the DVD jacket cover suggests, but is is a work that informs us of many of the current changes going on in Communist China.
Essentially this is a docudrama of sorts: the idea is to follow the day to day routine of male prostitutes in Beijing, giving insight as to why youths elect to follow this lifestyle. In order to give a feeling of story to the film, Zi'en Cui (who not only wrote and directed but plays a pivotal role of 'composer') has created a dialogue between two brothers - the older one is a virgin who is complying with the religious concept of forgoing premarital sex with his girlfriend since he is a right wing religious conservative, while the younger brother is planning to embrace the life of male prostitution. The argument for and against chastity and prostitution comprises much of the dialogue: the younger brother wants to feel the needs of the poor lower class boys who enter the city from the provinces to make money in any way they can - 'water always flows downhill'. The older brother refuses to understand why one would defy caste just for money.
Out on the streets and parks of the city the hustlers entertain each other and plan for their clients not only paying for services but also supplying wardrobes. Money (read 'capitalism') is of paramount importance. They are all constantly challenged by the bible-thumping brother, warning them that 'the end of the world is at hand', pleading with them to forego their occupation. The brother hands his role of evangelist to his girlfriend to continue his work. Meanwhile his younger brother embraces the life of a hustler and even brings his clients home to his parent's house for business, and despite the fact that his parents disapprove of the nature of his life, they condone the fact that at least he has a job!
One gets the feeling from the amount of dialogue that goes untranslated in the subtitles that there is a lot more to the movie than what is here outlined. It would be helpful if someone who spoke the language reviewed the film. To this viewer there are some surprising aspects of the film: coming from Communist China it is amazing that there is so much emphasis on Christianity and Capitalism, on social classes in a country whose premise is total social equality (socialism), and a view of the fashion-driven, money conscious activities of the youth.
There are many flaws in FEEDING BOYS, AYAYA (whatever 'ayaya' means): the camera work is pedestrian, the editing is choppy, the flow of the film is confusing, the music borders on ambient noise, the actual life of being a hustler is never truly explored(unlike the cover photo, the only shadow of sexuality is in over-guarded bathroom scenes of boys showering and brushing teeth!), and the messages of the story are so mixed that it takes much work to follow the threads. Yet given these problems, this viewer came away with some better concept of current life in Beijing - at least from the vantage of social studies. Grady Harp, July 05"
Lost Dreams and Boy Prostitues
Jason Troy | USA | 03/17/2006
(1 out of 5 stars)
The land of the Sleeping Dragon has been given license to make movies. This particular film has made the circuit and has been touted by many as Avante guard. The director Cul Zi en has crafted his film to promote cinematic interest and mounting international concern for one of China's fastest growing problems, male prostitution. The film itself is, by western standards, ill conceived and poorly constructed. Furthermore, it proves an ill woven tapestry of minor characters, spectral images, philosophical dialogs and a tangled message which has viewers wondering, if they are in the wrong theater. Lacing a shadowy musical composer who's role and purpose is never fully explained, with that of an elder brother, who's role is equally sketchy at best is confusing enough. His aim is? To save his younger brother from the brutal streets of Bejing. What little is understood of Cul Zi en's message is clear if one is on medication, but the options of a boy prostitutes in any country is doubtful at best. Sandwiched between overt poverty, harsh imprisonment, armies of religious zealots and the mounting problems of a ambivalent nation, prostitution, like any vice, becomes morally offensive, but a necessary evil. The film, like it's message, is destined for the shelves in the library of humanity. *