Monday, March 23, 2015

China Is Near

Marco Bellocchio’s China Is Near (1967) which is currently being revived at Film Forum hearkens back to a time when sex wasn’t so much political, as it has become today, as an allegory for politics. The film is reminiscent of Renoir’s La regle du jeu (1939) to the extent that the satire resonates the class conflict which is the movie’s underlying theme. Vittorio (Glauco Mauri) and his sister Elena (Elda Tattoli) are two aristocrats who get tricked into marrying the help, in the form of their two bookkeerpers Carlo (Paolo Graziosi) and Giovanna (Daniela Surina). Vittorio, who's running for political office, is as promiscuous politically as his sister Elena is in bed and it’s his 17 year old younger brother Camillo (Pierluigi Apra), from whom the movie’s titled derives, who flirts with Maoism. The first scene of China Is Near sets the tone in a particularly ingenious way. Camillo is organizing a gang bang, but while it would be fun to employ the sex as an attack on the bourgeoisie, he’s decided that only a working class girl will allow herself to be in an ecstatic state where she no longer notices where one lover’s ministrations begin and another's ends. Everything in China’s Is Near, including a bomb that fails to do much damage at Socialist Party headquarters, to two out of of wedlock pregnancies, fails to have dire consequences. In fact rich and poor walk off into the sunset with the musical beds leading to a paradigm of a classless society. In this sense the ending of the movie is a little like Macheath being freed from the gallows at the end of The Threepenny Opera. The dark underside, along with the social critique come in the self-conscious improbability of the denouement. 

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