Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Xun Zeng, Shengyang Zhang and Huelin Huang "Oddly" (2009)

Oddly is a macabre tale from China where they do the supernatural rather well. The film opens with a traditionally depicted storm as a small boat is thrown about by mighty waves. Strangely enough the occupier of the boat does not seem unduly perturbed. Cut to a child stirring a paper boat in a basin of water. Mother and then ice cold father chastise her, the impact of the father the more intimidating as he warns that disturbing the boat sank his ship. The basin and boat disappear with a sorcerer’s swish of the fingers. His wife is submissive though cheers up and spruces up in time to entertain her husband’s apprentice. The child is given a tasty if gaudy confectionery (parents normally warn children about eating bright red berries) on a stick whilst mother continues her play behind closed doors. The master’s return transforms mother to tears, apprentice to pig, whilst the child is given an extra ball shaped confection for her stick. The four minute short ends where the master of the house eats heartily, spouse is inconsolable and the remains of dinner floats to the floor. We are accustomed to stylish Chinese films where violence, for instance, is elevated to an art form. Here the grotesque elements are elegantly camouflaged – the bead or sweet that just as easily could be an eyeball, the partially carved carcass of the pig that could be the apprentice. There is lush, even lurid, colour as we follow the child, peeping through doors at an often distorted world that has a dark, sinister presence, all the more so as it is China at its most richly traditional. Three students of China’s Southern College of Design, Xun Zeng, Shengyang Zhang and Huelin Huang, created the ultra stylish 2D and 3D piece over four months. They graduated in 2009.

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