Preview: Piercing 1

Sat 01 Sep 2012

AND Digital Reporter Ben Williams reviews Piercing 1…

Piercing 1 is a feature length animation from the People’s Republic Of China, something or a rarity then, but a perfect fit for this years festival. The story follows Zhang Xiaojun, a well educated young man down on his luck and seemingly unemployable during the financial crisis. His ‘poor and wretched’ life has been spent trying to ‘make it big’ in the city with his drug dealing pal from his small hometown. ‘Everything can be solved with money’ they believe.

We first meet Zhang taking the first of many beatings. Feeling education has short changed him, and life in the city isn’t all it promised, he books himself a ticket on the 4.30 pm train to return to his simple rural beginnings. A quest which soon becomes for him like Lebowski’s attempt to recover his rug. As the story unfolds we meet the rich and corrupt supermarket tyrant Mr Yu (The Big Lebowski) who takes time out from the inconveniences of his wealthy life to give Zhang another kick in the teeth. Mr Yu becomes involved in a conflict with a corrupt business partner, as both try to swindle each other, circumstance might give Zhang and his friend their chance to make their fortune.

The dark humour and plot twists will be familiar to fans of Quentin Taranito’s early work, particularly Pulp Fiction and his script for Tony Scott’s True Romance. It looks wonderful, recalling stillness of classic Manga blended with the caricature styling of King Of The Hill. The faces of each new character make you smile before they even speak. I really enjoyed the film and particularly it’s ‘caper movie’ final third. The last thing I imagined being reminded of when watching a Chinese animation was Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels.

Film is both critical of China and the West, particularly the United States. The sparsely animated characters inhabit still landscapes decorated with western adverts, they worked in the factories which previously fulfilled western greed. The financial crisis has made individuals desperate. However rather than pointing away from China, director Liu Jian explores the country’s own fragmented society, and in particularly the disaffection of youth.

We’re used to seeing subversive animation from Japan, often in more fantastical settings, but from China this is rather unique. Regardless of it’s background and politics Piercing 1 is well worth a viewing, it’s clever, looks great and, dramatically, is a notch above a lot of animation.

Piercing 1 screens on Sun 02 Sep at 16:20. You’ll be able to put your questions to director Liu Jian and producer Lynne Wang in the post-screening Q&A. Book your tickets here.

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