Yang Ban Xi: The 8 Modelworks

"Weak"

Yang Ban Xi: The 8 Modelworks Review


During the ten years of Chairman Mao's reign over China, the idea of a "Cultural Revolution" became, in part, Mao's wife Jiang Qing's idea to ban traditional opera and promote false, color-saturated images of an idealized version of their people. For this period, youngsters growing up were hand fed movies that were campy musicals in very bright colors depicting perfect peasants, strutting military icons, singing, dancing, and spouting the party line. They would have legacy value as sci-fi musicals if the gaudy repetition of the Yang Ban Xi, or "revolutionary operas" weren't so seriously intent on their propaganda message.

While the government allowed many to be made, it eventually brought the hammer down. Perhaps it reached the extremes of what it was willing to spend or perhaps it eventually realized that these productions bore a resemblance to the MGM product it was emulating, ultimately counter-productive to party indoctrination. The gross number produced eventually was boiled down to the eight best, referred to as the Eight Model Works.

To this day, as this documentary shows, Chinese people remember this propaganda "art" with emotion and the wispy fondness for a past era. The memories are nostalgic and affectionate, as one might recall the Barbie Doll figures of one's childhood. The ability to recall the words and tunes brings the pleasure of fond memories without allusion to totalitarian extravagance and force feeding.

Director Yan Ting Yuen looks back to the actual footage with nostalgia laced with irony, intercutting with the cosmopolitan Singapore of today, a relatively thriving metropolis and economic powerhouse. Interviews with people in all strata of society are blended with a finely trained corps of dancers who stage a dance on the streets as a house-to-house version of The Red Women's Detachment, one of the model Eight. The grit and backlight of the setting and choreography makes one think of a modernized update on West Side Story. It may not approach the production level of the classic, but dance talent in this part of the world is evident.

The true glory that emerges from this account is not in the cheerful and childish illusions of yesteryear, which was probably the brightest part of miserable lives under the false, forced ideals of a sociologically destructive regime. The surprise in the footage is that the Chinese culture of today, despite domination by yet another repressive government, seems to maintain many strands of freedom. A sense of independence pervades the subjects in all parts of the resourceful city as its very able citizens feel far enough away from old repressions to reminisce openly about the fairy tale spectacles of their childhood.

Aka Yang Ban Xi, de 8 modelwerken.



Yang Ban Xi: The 8 Modelworks

Facts and Figures

Run time: 90 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 29th September 2005

Distributed by: Shadow Distribution

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 65%
Fresh: 13 Rotten: 7

IMDB: 7.2 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Yan Ting Yuen

Producer: Hetty Naaijkens-Retel Helmich

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