DVD Red Light Revolution
A resident of Beijing for over fifteen years, Australian born Sam Voutas shares with the world the trials and tribulations of an everyday guy running a sex shop in China. Despite the fact that Voutas’ second feature can’t actually be screened in cinemas across China for permit reasons, it has enjoyed smatterings of success elsewhere, winning an Audience Award for Best Director at the Singapore International Film Festival last year. The film boasts a witty script and some timely comic acting.
Shunzi (Zhao Jun) is a round faced taxi driver whose mouth seems to get him into a lot of trouble. After his boss unceremoniously fires him, he discovers that his wife has left him for an actor and thrown his beloved TV out onto the street. With no job, no wife and no car, Shinzu slinks back home to his elderly parents’ (Tian Huimin and Ji Qing) to start afresh.
His next job – working for a diet company in a supermarket – leads him to meet old school chum Jiang (Jiang Xiduo), now a successful Events Manager. Jiang confides in Shinzu the secret to his success: selling sex toys. Soon enough, desperate Shinzu is introduced to salacious businessman and investor Mr. Iggy (Masanobu Otsuka), and with the help of Lili (Vivid Wang), his diet promoting co-worker, sets up shop selling his X-rated goods.
Almost immediately, customers are flocking to the store, and it seems Shinzu’s gamble will pay off. But as an overzealous neighbourhood watchman and Mr Iggy’s impossible demands suddenly leave Shinzu out of the game and in some serious debt. The only people who can help him now are the newly invigorated patrons of the neighbourhood…
“Sex. Shagging. Making love. Whatever you want to call it, we’re all at it. But nobody does it more than us Chinese,” remarks Shinzu, as he gazes knowingly at us from the screen. And with the knowledge of China’s staggering population numbers, a steadily increasing number of sex shops (over two thousand in Beijing alone we’re told) and that 70% of the world’s sex toys are in fact made in China, who would imply otherwise? Red Light Revolution thinly attempts to lift the veil surrounding China’s attitude on sexuality, but in a light, humorous manner. The whole escapade of the permit Shinzu is required to get before opening the shop (which he naturally forgets about) and the farcical impossibility of being able to obtain one, sees him filling out a Permit Form to “find out where to get permits;” alongside Voutas’ cutesy cutaways during the slightly naughtier scenes, both are a curt nod towards China’s censorship laws.
Zhao Jun is ideal as the affable yet perpetually confused Shinzu. His round, boyish face frequently unveils bewildered expressions that highlight his utter naivety about the products he’s selling and the ins and outs of the sex industry, except that it’s all morally wrong. Poor Shinzu suffers many misfortunes, including his utterly humiliating job at the supermarket, where he is forced to wear a ghastly uniform – a nightmarish ensemble of snot green satin shorts and a cropped shirt, topped off with a badge that urges customers “Don’t end up like me!” But despite all the loser-esque qualities he embodies, it’s things like this that help the audience warm to him.
An amusing take on the sex industry in China.
The main customers from the neighbourhood are an amusing lot – an underage teenager, determined to be fully prepared when he finally meets a girl; an old argumentative couple (the male half of which in certain lights, is the image of Carry On legend Kenneth Williams, but Chinese); and Shinzu’s old school teacher. The best side-character of the lot, though, has to be the borderline neurotic neighbourhood watchman, Old Qu, who drifts through the barren streets like a bad smell, bullying the locals and enforcing ridiculous rules.
Director Sam Voutas also makes an appearance as Jack Deroux, an incredibly wealthy ambassador of the Industry and business associate of Mr. Iggy. It’s a miniscule thing that for some reason stands out, but Voutas’ very first appearance at Mr. Iggy’s S&M party (and his one line) feels completely out of place and sounds horribly cringe worthy, jarring you out of your amused reverie – in this instance, the scene would have been vastly improved had he just stayed completely silent. Obviously, this little moment just sets up his existence as a super VIP, so he can appear later on at the climatic and wonderfully named ‘Sex Conference’, in which his cameo is completely justifiable and even funny.
Due to a low-budget, almost every building or set in the film appears to be in dire need of some work, from Shinzu’s dilapidated apartment (now owned by his ex-wife, and inexplicably slap-bang in the middle of what looks like a building site) to Lili’s grandmother’s shop which she ‘borrows’ to help Shinzu out. The few overhead shots of the neighbourhood aren’t that pretty either – rows and rows of grey rooftops sit on top of ashen buildings which criss-cross along the street, a few trees popping up sporadically while tower blocks loom on the horizon, which is a shame given the colourful nature of the film’s subject.
The soundtrack throughout is a mixed bag. Although, overall, quite enjoyable – from funky Chinese ska band Mr Chelonian (with a song that is damn near impossible not to nod along to) to the less palatable sound of some amateur rock band whose lyrics appear to consist of nothing but the word ‘woah’ sung at varying lengths.
An amusing take on the sex industry in China, with light-hearted, tasteful sex jokes and a satirical look at Chinese society. A fun film that’s good for a giggle.
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