Good Cats

Ying Liang’s third feature is a comedic critique of China’s economic miracle, the corruption of which he roots to Deng Xiaoping’s oft-quoted pragmatic mantra about cats being good, regardless of color, as long as they catch mice. It’s set in an uncomfortably urbanizing Zigong, Ying’s Sichuan Province hometown, where a slacker (Luoa Liang), pushing 30 and not impressing his wife (Wang Quan), gets work collecting debts for an increasingly shady land developer (Peng Deming). Quite clearly, the developer is just the sort of corner cutter whose malfeasance compounded the devastation of the Sichuan earthquake last year. Whether from detachment or incredulity, Ying tends to take in his scenes from a distance, allowing enough space to accumulate contrasts between the actions and sounds within them (and, perhaps, skirting censure from Beijing). Western-style status anxiety collides with, say, the metaphorical possibilities of flickering light bulbs, or direct, deadpan eruptions of chorus-like commentary from the Chinese goth-metalmongers Lamb’s Funeral. Sample lyric: “How should I escape this world? Is corruption endemic? Or is the world just too lonely?” Ying knows these are serious questions, even if he has us laughing at them.