European  Premiere | Out Of Competition | PART 2 - A/B side VIBES. Greatest Hits from ‘80s & ‘90s


This restoration of Huang Jianxin’s second film as writer and director allows us the opportunity to rediscover a milestone of contemporary Chinese cinema. Dislocation was the first science fiction comedy filmed in China. It was produced by the Xi’an Film Studio in 1986, when the artistic renaissance unleashed by the young filmmakers of the “‘Fifth Generation” had thrown open the doors of film festivals around the world to films from China. Like his peers at the Beijing Film Academy, Huang Jianxin was an avant-garde filmmaker: after creating a furore in film circles by inaugurating the genre of post-Cultural Revolution political satire with his first film, The Black Cannon Incident – the tragi-comic tale of a chess-loving translator who is mistaken for a terrorist because he uses the word “black cannon” in a letter referring to a chess piece – in his second film, he further sharpened the focus by adding a futuristic element to his satire on the prevailing bureaucracy in Chinese society. Dislocation revolves around Zhao Shuxin, the same anti-hero protagonist as in The Black Cannon Incident – and played by the same actor, Lin Zifeng – who has meanwhile been promoted to the role of an executive of a large corporation.

As a senior manager, Zhao is forced to attend endless meetings with colleagues, working groups, committees – an incredibly tedious activity that prevents him from devoting himself to his scientific research work. His working day is punctuated by the orders he receives via his secretary, an efficient, implacable woman who disciplines him like a child.

Zhao’s daily grind eventually takes on existential proportions, to the point that he is unable to devote time and energy to his girlfriend. Exasperated by this cerebral stalemate, he decides to clone himself, building a robot that perfectly imitates him, even in his thoughts, and which can attend meetings on his behalf – until the robot begins to feel the same boredom as its creator and rebel...

Re-watching the film almost 40 years later is surprising, as it reveals how much the China depicted by Huang Jianxin – one of the first filmmakers of the time to focus his attention on urban contemporaneity – was more modern and in tune with the rest of the world than we might imagine, considering that at the time of the film’s production the period of economic reforms and internationalisation of China had just begun.

The sets, colours, cinematography and soundtrack are highly stylised, demonstrating avant-garde stylistic approaches, of a modernity that converges with pop and constructs an “unreal” reality that is entertaining and alienating all at once. Although absurdist in style, the film addresses a serious issue, and would seem to imply that individuals subjugated relentlessly by an implacable power structure will change personality – even if they are robots. That Huang Jianxin’s chose to use satire helped reflect on the lessons of contemporary Chinese history in a sophisticated, adult way. In more recent years, the director has focused his attention on mainstream films in the historical/monumental genre, but his contribution to auteur cinema in China remains unquestionably valid.

Maria Barbieri
Film director: HUANG Jianxin
Year: 1986
Running time: 89'
Country: China
26/04 - 7:15 PM
Visionario, Via Asquini 33
26-04-2024 19:15 26-04-2024 20:44Europe/Rome Dislocation Far East Film Festival Visionario, Via Asquini 33CEC Udine cec@cecudine.org