What kind of film is Song Chuan's Ciao Ciao a Chinese-French co-production which paints a vicious picture of rural China?
Bookended by shots of the line of green and red train carriages running distantly through the verdant countryside, this one covers the return of local girl Zuquin Liang/Ciao Ciao to her Yunnan province village. The kids call out “whore” when they see her city clothes and her family is made up of retrenched dad who is first seen catching a green river snake to use in his home made remedy and mum getting by putting out for the local bootlegger. She complains that back breaking work in the tobacco fields for a year earns less than a city job in six months. She tells Ciao Ciao that at least she’s pretty and will have to use that to escape drudgery.
Marriage to the bootlegger’s tearaway son (the kids shout “drunk”) looks like an out but that disintegrates when his dad’s business is busted by the local cops who are on about people dying from homemade liquor and she starts pairing with the urbanised town hair dresser who promises to take her to Canton.
This one bears little resemblance to the Asian films in the multiplexes, with its bilious colours, raunchy make out and its depiction of petty corruption with gift cigarettes. The mayor sends out the emigrating workers with red rosettes that match the uniforms of the kids’ band that plays them off as they are instructed to remember the one child rule despite the enticements of the big city. It can’t compare to say Railroad Tigers or Huang jin shi dai/The Golden Era and it would be interesting to understand the mechanism which put Ciao Ciao in a festival and those into restricted distribution.