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Sauna on Moon (2011); The People's Secretary (2010)

Sauna on Moon (2011)
October 20, 2012 - 7:30 pm

Sauna on Moon (2011)

US Premiere!

Directed by Zou Peng

Zou Peng’s dazzling second feature witnesses life at a boisterous sauna/brothel in the Southern Chinese manufacturing heartland of Guangdong. Fount of China’s market-oriented economic reform, Guangdong is shown here as a setting of extreme contrasts between socioeconomic classes. The film’s rapt focus on the residents of one brothel points up the dizzying and surreal effects of these contrasts, as older and younger women rehearse the erotic arts, in the interest of creating the region’s leading pleasure palace for high-rolling “special guests.”

Eschewing easy moralistic conclusions about the politics of power, the film instead portrays a social ecology built around the unabashed pursuit and uses of money; indeed, the house in which the characters live. Their daily experiences, arranged in a cyclonic rather than linear “order,” become a self-contained moral and experiential universe comprised of endless contradictions and ambiguities. Exploitation and even violence are among the dynamics at work, but also family feelings, illustrated in celebrations and exchanges of affection between the workers and the middle-management figures, all of whom, together, pursue their goals of excellence. A dim, distant outer world is also sketched, through glimpses of the past working-class drudgery of one woman, and the dreams of another to become a popular singer. The fantastical factory that they have entered becomes a vortex of ironies, prompting both scopophilic pleasure and an uncanny catalog of the effects of China’s economic divides.

– Shannon Kelley

Producer: Chen Zhiheng. Screenwriter: Zou Peng. Cinematographer: Yu Lik-wai. Editor: Wenders Li. Cast: Wu Yuchi, Yang Xiaomin, Lei Ting, Zhan Yi, Meng Yan. 

35mm, color, Putonghua w/ English s/t, 93 min. 

Preceded by

The People's Secretary (2010)

North American Premiere!

Directed by Zhang Qing

Installation artist Zhang Qing employs the ubiquity of closed-circuit television cameras to amplify a cheeky satire, with multiple video feeds bearing witness to the super-human good works of a community leader, recounted in a style that echoes Chinese television of the 1980s.

Producer/Editor: Zhang Qing. Cast: Wang Zhixin, Lu Yuzhen, Lu Tinghai, Zhang Weicheng.

DVD, color, 18 min. 

This program has been made possible with funding support from the UCLA Center for Chinese Studies.