See our Best of Detroit 2020 winners.

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Quitting

Posted By on Wed, Oct 30, 2002 at 12:00 AM

Since my only previous encounter with the work of writer-director Zhang Yang has been his last film, Shower (1999), an overly sentimental, comic and very popular movie, Quitting comes as quite a surprise, being as dark and experimental as its predecessor was cozy and predictable. It’s the true story of a young actor named Jia Hongsheng (who plays himself) and his struggle with drug addiction. The title refers to both kicking the habit and temporarily quitting your life in the process. And while there’s not much new in the addiction angle, there’s much of interest in the film’s depiction of Western pop culture’s incursion into modern China.

Jia achieved popularity in the ’80s playing anti-heroes in Chinese B-movies, but it was during a stage production of Kiss of the Spider Woman, directed by Yang, that he was first introduced to drugs (smoking heroin is the buzz of choice). The film opens during one of his unsuccessful attempts at staying sober. His parents, provincial actors, have moved to Beijing, to live with their son during this crucial period.

The family dynamic is not encouraging; father is a borderline alcoholic and mom is ineffectual. Jia lapses back into his habit, his fantasies fueled by classic rock like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, but most of all the Beatles and their “lead singer” (as he informs his father), John Lennon. His fascination with Lennon is strong enough for him to cultivate a Lennon-
esque appearance and finally to sink into a delusional state, believing Lennon to be his real father. Next stop: the local asylum.

The film specifically links Jia’s drug use with a more existential crisis — he’s a “what does it all mean?” kind of guy — and his interest in Western pop is less hedonistic than philosophical. (The film is almost worth seeing just to find out what happens when Beatle lyrics are translated into Chinese and then back into English subtitles; it took me awhile to figure out that “Take It Naturally” was “Let It Be.”)

Yang tells his story with a combination of realism and intentional staginess, and his inventiveness adds a great deal to the familiar tale of generational gaps and cultural clashes.

 

Showing exclusively at the Detroit Film Theatre (inside the DIA, 5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit), Friday through Sunday. Call 313-833-3237.

Richard C. Walls writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail him at letters@metrotimes.com.

Tags:

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at letters@metrotimes.com.

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.

More by Richard C. Walls

Read the Digital Print Issue

November 25, 2020

View more issues

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit

© 2020 Detroit Metro Times - Contact Us

Website powered by Foundation