Blind Shaft (Mang Jing, 2003)

US Kino Video DVD edition


 

Blind Shaft (Mang Jing) - The Start of China Film Noir

This film may have been the Start of the mainland China crime story phenomenon. China has made a bunch
of great crime films, with solid everyday type of crimes depicted as in Beijing Blues 2012 and Black Coal, Thin Ice
in 2014. The latter one some sort of companion to this groundbreaker Blind Shaft, as we get to see another
coal mining scarred landscape, not Henan this time but from the Heilongjang province up in northeastern China.
Both areas far from the tourist scenic routes.

Blind Shaft was actually released in the West and also here in Sweden on DVD, but without any promotion at
all and i think not many people saw it. Well, they missede a crime story gem here that's for sure.
Also in the US by Kino Video, but all these releases are long since gone.

HK Star Treasure Holdings 2003 or 2004 DVD edition

This film was written, produced and directed by Li Yang, born in 1959, who had lived and studied in Germany for
many years and who had made threee documentaries during the 1990's. This film was his first feature film and when
released it caused a small sensation with it's exciting and fascinating crime drama from the seldom seen rough mining
landscapes of China, and "Blind Shaft" won the Silver Bear Award at the 2003 Berlin Film Festival.
The film was adapted from the novel "Sacred Wood" by Liu Qingbang and the great cinematography depicting the
barren landscapes was provided by Liu Yonghong. "Blind Shaft" was banned in China.


The great Wang Baoqiang (born 1984) debuted with this film, 19 years old he played a 16 year old, and he's great giving
the role the naivety needed for a country boy far from home. He won the Hong Kong "Best New Performer" Golden
Horse award, and also an best actor award at Bangkok International Film Festival.

Story: This amazing crime drama follows the two miners, grifters and ruthless killers Song Jinming (Li Yixiang) and Tang
Zhaoyang (Wang Shuangbao) and their deadly shenanigans in the capitalistic emerging new China open for enterprise.
They've thought out a sceme where they travel between different privately owned mines seeking jobs as coal miners, and
bringing with them down into the dark and dangerous shafts some young naive guy who they've claimed to the owner
of the mine being a relative to one of them, and then they cold-bloodedly murder the guy in some arranged accident.
Whereafter they receive money from the owner to keep quiet about it, without notifying the authorities.

It's a "clever" plan and Song and Tang are enterprising in their own way using the system. There are a lot of mining deaths
in China every year due to unsafe shafts and cave-ins and it's easy for them to arrange an accident.
Yes, it's a non-flattering part of China that is shown in this film, but mining landscapes tends to look a bit shabby wherever
in the world they are, but the reason for the film to be banned in China may have to do with how these enterprises are shown
in the film. China have opened up for private bussinesses and the owners of the mines willingly pay the killer duo to keep
quiet about the shaft accident to avoid any publicity and for the authorities to be alerted.

As the mines owner says: "No news can leak out, if the authorities investigates us, we'll be screwed". The film suggests
that the private mines are owned by The Mob, the Triads, the Jiang hu connected as one underling goon to the Boss
suggests "Why not just kill the two them". I've read some Chinese crime novels and the Chinese Government do seem to
have a huge problem with corruption, with local authorities deeply involved with the triads, doing bussiness, real estate,
mines or whatever. Today, with the acclaimed films by Jia Zhang Ke this subject may be less sensitive for China ?

After successfully arranged an mining accident and receiving money to keep quiet about the death of some poor fellow
Song and Tang can be seen walking the streets of some grimy grey provincial city looking for a suitable new victim for
their grifting. A horde of people waits at the Train Station for someone to hire them for a days work, and they soon find
a stupid naive looking 16 year old country boy, Yuan Feng Ming (Wang Baoqiang) to hook up with them.

Yuan haven't seen his family for 6 months as he's far away from home, and also Song and Tang are far from home and
they call their families by phone and transfer them money. Yuan is poor and can't afford going to school, and Song has
a son aged like Yuan and has a hard time too paying for his son's school.
When writing this text in December 2020 i must confess that i didn't know just how capitalistic China has turned, to NOT
provide public school for their youngsters ? Is that true ? If so, a Neo-Liberal Hell just like the US.
In this film everything can be bought for money, cheap labour, female bodies and fake ID documents. Yes, just like in
almost any country on Earth that is, Money is your God !

DVD in anamorphic widescreen, DD stereo Henanese dialect speaking (and some mandarin ?) audio with english subtitles.
Henanese a chinese mandarin dialect and probably very hard for putonghua speakers to understandand and just as
wuhanese or cantonese would be surely. Extras for Kino Video just a Li Yang biography and filmography, a still pictures
gallery and trailers. Final words: Very recommended if you can get hold it and a Chinese Crime Drama Masterpiece