The Jimmy Hat
Director: Xue Cun (2006)
A bunch of guys are running down the street being pelted with baozi in the bustling streets of Xinjiekou. Sound like the mantou scenario from would-be blockbuster The Promise? No, it's not another video spoof of Chen Kaige's stinker. It's the beginning of The Jimmy Hat (Xinjiekou), a movie about young ruffians in the hutongs 20 years ago. Is it another version of Wan Zhu, Wang Shuo's paean to hooliganism? Or is it a reproduction of Zhang Yuan's Beijing Bastards? First-time director Xue Cun summarizes this movie in three words: baozi, women and condoms.
Set in a restaurant in Xinjiekou, the protagonist is Jian Jun (Xue Cun), a self-employed baozi-seller. He falls in love with Shen Hong, whose only dream is to travel abroad. Jian Jun sets about winning Shen Hong's love, eventually resulting in his friend's death when a fight erupts over her. She agrees to have a one night stand with Jian Jun before she leaves Beijing for the States on the condition that Jian must guarantee that he will not get her pregnant. Jian Jun scours the city in search of a condom, losing his way in the heavy rain on his way back.
Xue Cun, known for his amusing single Northeasterners Are All Living Lei Fengs, also wrote, directed and produced the film. His 1980s-era China is convincing: breakdancing is hot, the Chinese women's volleyball team is a national institution, and Japanese TV shows are popular. This is all accurate. But as for it being an accurate portrayal of the life of Beijingers, few of the characters have authentic Beijing accents, which makes it seem more like a movie set in today's Beijing, perhaps about the lives of a group of migrant workers.
(That's Beijing September 14, 2006)