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    Birth of the modern

    More meaningful to a Chinese audience than an American one, "Platform" uses subtle cues to describe the social change that affects a group of young performers in the post-Mao era.


    It's only a slight exaggeration to say the star of the Chinese film "Platform" is the wardrobe. That is, it's a film about change in an ordinary but remote corner of the country from the 1970s to the '90s, and a lot of the cues of cultural change are the clothes that the young people wear as their conservative society starts to cut loose.

    Original title: 站台.
    Written and directed by: Jia Zhangke.
    Cast: Wang Hongwei, Zhao Tao, Liang Jingdong, Yang Tianyi, Wang Bo.
    In Chinese with English subtitles.
    Cinema Village
    22 East 12th Street, New York

    The movie follows a half-dozen young members of a theater and music troupe, starting in the immediate post-Mao era. They start testing the limits of style and behavior to a parent-shocking (though not American-shocking) degree. Boys wear bell-bottoms. Girls smoke cigarettes. There's even a hint of kissing (still artfully concealed even for the present-day censors), as the young man Cui Mingliang, in typically oblique Chinese fashion, mentions casually to his female companion Yin Ruijian, "Someone asked me if you were my girlfriend. Is that true?" It's all so scandalous — for its time.

    But times change — the first sign of which is troupe heartthrob Zhang Jun's return from a trip to Guanghzhou (Canton city, near Hong Kong) with a flashy orange and blue T-shirt bearing Japanese writing, and a boombox with tapes of the latest Hong Kong and Taiwanese rock.

    Soon, private shops are supplying fashionable clothing from the outside world and we see Ruijian in previously unheard-of high heels and fashionable capris. The young twenty-somethings are soon holding hands in public and trying to secretly pair up in hotel rooms on tour.

    But "Platform" is a very long two and a half hours of subtly shifting scenes whose significance will rarely be meaningful to a Western audience. Who knows — to a viewer who lived through it, the film might be the Chinese "American Graffiti," but to an American, it's a chore to get through. Other movies, notably "To Live" and "Shower," have dealt with social and political change in a more comprehensible way and might be a better place to start than this film.

    MARCH 18, 2003

    Reader comments on Platform:

  • platform   from peter, Apr 23, 2005
  • Re: platform   from ALAN FREDERICK, Dec 3, 2006
  • Re: platform   from pat, May 24, 2008
  • Music   from mudi150, Aug 17, 2006
  • americans   from Nathalie, Feb 4, 2007
  • Re: americans   from Jenny, Jan 14, 2008
  • Others countries   from pat, May 24, 2008

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