Chinese movies under the new capitalism tend to dwell not only on the journey across life, but through a damaged and baffling world as well. And Wang Chao’s Luxury Car (Jiang Cheng Xia Ri) is a subtle and lyrical meditation on social alienation, and an eloquent mood piece that barely requires subtitles to convey its solemn, poetic sensibility
A Chinese/French co-production, Luxury Car follows aging country schoolteacher Li Qiming (Wu Youcai), as he makes his way to the urban metropolis of Wuhan to find his long estranged son, Xueqin. Li’s wife is suffering from terminal cancer back home, and her final wish is to see her son again before she passes away.
Li first seeks out his daughter Yanhong (Butterfly rock singer Tian Yuan), who lives in a seedy apartment and claims to work in a club at a luxury hotel. But unknown to Li is that his daughter is a hotel prostitute who works for He (Huang He), an unusually kindly middle aged pimp and mob boss. While distracting her father from any curiosity about her secret life, Yanhong puts him in touch with a local policemen set to retire, who takes an interest in the case as a final assignment as he escorts the increasingly anxious father about the city.
Eventually terrible realities come to light about the dehumanization, corruption and danger Li’s children have been subjected to in the new market economy‘s commercially oppressive urban setting. And even though he had been sent from Wuhan to the countryside decades ago when a young intellectual, as punishment for anti-revolutionary activity, Li yearns to go back to the peace and social harmony of rural existence as quickly as possible.
Luxury Car, an ominous character of sorts in its own right to which the tragic fate of everyone concerned is ultimately linked, symbolizes here the demoralizing Faustian bargain embodied in the lure of materialism, that commercial domination has introduced into Chinese society. And this bittersweet tale of broken lives in a fractured culture in transition, is a delicately spun reflection on the human consequences in a search for fulfillment, where so many have lost their way.
First Run Features/Global Lens Collection
DVD Extras: Director Interview; Director Statement; Biographies.