Beijing Taxi: Hop On in for a Lux Tour of Contemporary China
You know the place: a Neorealist set populated by the young and the restless and the dazed of all ages, all living with the omnipresent but hard-to-grasp specter of kitschy/deadly communism yet steamrolling into the ruthless capitalist future. Yes, China has become a subgenre of contemporary documentary, as Beijing Taxi helps to confirm. Shot on HD as the 2008 Olympics approached, Miao Wangs portrait of Beijing is partly a look at three average cab driversa mom who likes the jobs independence, a sickly Cultural Revolution vet, a jolly complacent fellowand partly glossy travelogue, with skittering footage of city folk, buildings, and the odd ceremony that tilts perilously toward lux B-roll. Theres something transformative goin on in the streets, no doubt, and Soviet kinetic-kino pioneer Dziga Vertov might have liked the films ethos of a nation on the move. But, especially with Chinese pop smoothing the way, Wangs letter from Beijing feels too breezy and light on fresh insight. The highlight is the crop-cut woman of the group, Wei Caixia, resoundingly vivid in her mix of ambivalence and confidence and worth her own film. Why not this one?
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