I Love Beijing (2001) directed by Ning Ying, can be discussed as an effective example of modern Chinese cinematography and as an illustration of contemporary urban life in Beijing. In her film, Ning Ying reflects the aspects of the modern urban life from the perspective of a young male, Desi, and with references to the idea of personal interactions at the background of urban streets and city’s realities. Ning Ying uses the specific techniques in order to represent the realism and even naturalism of scenes because of the necessity to accentuate the reality of images and relations reflected in the film. Ning Ying focuses on demonstrating the variety of Desi’s short interactions with women in the context of the urban streams and traffic jams.
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However, it is important to note that there are many topics discussed in the film, and the camera work is used appropriately to reflect such themes as the urban daily life, urban contrasts, and people’s relations in their connection and interdependence. To understand the elements of Ning Ying’s style and reflection on topics, it is important to focus on the scene of Desi’s meeting a young librarian. The scene of the meeting responds to developing the idea of the people’s interactions and gender opposition in relation to the changing urban life, and it is characterized by rather long shots and by the usage of certain techniques to emphasize the main idea.
The realities of changing cities in China under the impact of globalization processes are the topic of many modern Chinese films (Lu 138). Furthermore, the changes in the social and economic life contributed to changes in art and directors’ reflection of the ideas in films as art pieces. That is why the interactions of ordinary people living and communicating at the background of building new cities are the topic of many modern authors (Braester 163). Ning Ying expressed her involvement in the topic while developing the trilogy dedicated to Beijing. I Love Beijing (2001) is the final movie of the trilogy in which the author reflects on the realities of living in the urban spaces from the perspective of a young male driver who has to adapt to the social and economic changes (Cui 241-243).
The director’s style is not correlated with mainstream features. The opposition in views of Desi and his female acquaintances on the aspects of interpersonal relations, economic and social life is accentuated by Ning Ying with the help of the camera work and with focusing on the persons’ reactions while speaking with the help of long shots (“I Love Beijing”). From this point, the sequence fits directly into the main narrative of the film, and it can be considered as the illustration of the gender and social opposition discussed in the film.
The author’s focus on realistic events, discussions, and situations allows concentrating on the formal aspect of the sequence in order to speak about the emotionality and reflections of daily life in the scene. A mise-en-scene is often defined as a complex picture, including the elements of the composition, sets, actors, and lighting in their combination. Mise-en-scenes are used to present the definite author’s idea. It is important to analyze the mise-en-scene of Desi’s meeting a young female librarian from the moment of the girl’s agreement to be brought up by Desi. The scene consists of several rather long shots that represent Desi and the woman separately and together in one shot (“I Love Beijing”).
The composition is based on demonstrating the settings of the taxi cabin and young people’s conversation. The first shots represent Desi and the young woman together. The characters only begin their conversation. During the conversation, the characters find out that their views on many points are rather different. This opposition is accentuated with the help of composition and editing. Thus, when one of the characters speaks, the camera is focused on the other person to show his or her reaction to the words (“I Love Beijing”). As a result, the scene acquires the necessary emotional depth and realistic features. Moreover, the usage of the camera angle and focus on the characters separately can be discussed as the additional emphasis on gender opposition.
That is why, the sequence consisting of several long shots presenting the characters together and separately helps the viewers to feel the specific tension between them, and concentration on the contrast makes the viewers follow the scene attentively. It is possible to observe not only aspects of the situation but also guess about the characters’ emotions and state. The sequence taken from I Loves Beijing (2001), directed by Ning Ying, presents a scene in which the frames of the urban environments are squeezed to the cabin of a taxi. Thus, balancing between representing the general pictures of the city and microcosm of non-large spaces, Ning Ying creates her vision of the new city and people’s relations in it.
Braester, Yomi. “Tracing the City’s Scars: Demolition and the Limits of the Documentary Impules”. The Urban Generation: Chinese Cinema and Society at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century. Ed. Zhang Zhen. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2007. 161-181. Print.
Cui, Shuqin. “Ning Ying’s Beijing Trilogy: Cinematic Configurations of Age, Class, and Sexuality”. The Urban Generation: Chinese Cinema and Society at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century. Ed. Zhang Zhen. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2007. 241-263. Print.
I Love Beijing. 2001. Web.
Lu, Sheldon. “Tear Down the City: Reconstructing Urban Space in Contemporary Chinese Popular Cinema and Avant-Garde Art”. The Urban Generation: Chinese Cinema and Society at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century. Ed. Zhang Zhen. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2007. 137-161. Print.