Monday, February 4, 2013

Anshan v Sheffield

Watched a strange Chinese film last night called A Piano in a Factory. It's a comedy from a couple of years ago, set in the steel-making city of Anshan in the north-east. Anshan is twinned with Sheffield and there are parallels with the The Full Monty. Similar bunch of working men blokes struggling to earn a living as the city's once proud steel industry goes into decline in the early 1990s. Even the posters look similar. 
Of course, Anshan's steel behemoth was then largely state-controlled, and since then it's transformed itself into Anshan Iron & Steel Group, one of the largest steel manufacturers in the world, so there the comparison ends.
Anyway, the story revolves around a couple who are getting divorced. The man must provide a piano for his young musically talented daughter or lose custody. He can't afford one, tries to steal another and eventually ends up making one out of steel with his mates. The film uses Anshan's bleak industrial landscape to almost painterly effect; if David Lynch's Eraserhead ever got re-made, it would be shot here. There's lots of stylish tracking shots and a bizarre flamenco scene but ultimately it doesn't really hang together or make you warm to the characters.  
I met the director, Zhang Meng, briefly. We paired him up with British film maker Nick Whitfield a year and a bit ago.   

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