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- Movie: The High Life
- Chinese: 寻欢作乐
- Director: Zhao Dayong
- World Premiere: March 27, 2010 (Hong Kong International Film Festival)
- Release Date:
- Runtime: 96 min.
- Language: Mandarin
- Country: China
Jian Ming, who lives in a crowded urban village slum in Guangzhou, has no goals or ambitions. He scrapes out an existence by running a phony employment agency, scamming money out of desperate new arrivals. He derives some petty satisfaction by creating a collage on his bedroom wall out of the photos of his scam victims. His only other escape from his rock-bottom life of the urban village is his daily Chinese opera routine, which he performs on the rooftop of his apartment building. Jian Ming also secretly passes time with Ah Fang, a young mistress kept by a wealthier patron in an apartment in the urban village.
The arrival one day of a fresh-faced young migrant named Xiao Ya jostles Jian Ming out of his malaise. Xiao Ya has come to the city in search of work, and for the first time ever Jian Ming seriously considers how he might give her a real leg up. He introduces her to a sleazy hair salon in the village, taking an under-the-table finders fee from the salon’s owner. This business exchange weighs on Jian Ming’s conscience, and he often goes to the salon to speak with Xiao Ya. The two grow closer and closer.
Before long, the mistress Ah Fang grows to despise her elderly patron. She presses Jian Ming to leave the village with her and start a new life. But tensions grow between them, as Jian Ming must face the fact that he has never truly loved Ah Fang. Meanwhile, Jian Ming continues to visit to Xiao Ya at the salon, where their friendship deepens.
One day, as Jian Ming and Xiao Ya are hanging out, Brother Hui, the local gang leader, comes into the salon for a massage. Jian Ming stands powerless outside as Brother Hui rapes Xiao Ya in the back room. Jian Ming leaves the salon in a fury and later attacks Brother Hui in one of the village’s dark alleys.
Brother Hui’s attack on Xiao Ya sends Jian Ming into a deep funk. His friend Ren finally convinces him to take part in a pyramid sales scheme, but Guangzhou police raid the meeting and take Jian Ming into custody.
The film then turns to Dian Qiu, a police prison guard who is an aspiring poet. Dian Qiu’s greatest joy is hearing others read his poetry, and each day he foists his notebook on prisoners and forces them to recite the poems for the others. Those who refuse to read Dian’s poetry are placed in solitary confinement. -- Lantern Films
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