Chicken Poets (2002)

October 11, 2003 • Film, Reviews

Yun Fei is an unsuccessful poet who comes to a small village on the outskirts of Beijing to visit an old poet friend, Chen Xiaoyang. Yun Fei discovers that his friend has become a successful businessman, operating a black chicken hennery in town, and that he dreams of replacing all the white eggs on the dining tables in Beijing with the more nutritious black eggs.

Yun Fei encounters a series of absurd and unfortunate incidences in this quirky little village, and meets PAM_chicken2an odd and lonely girl named Fang Fang. Fang Fang, who is color-blind, dreams of leaving her small black and white village and eventually falls in love with the poet. But Fang Fang’s love cannot motivate Yun Fei to succeed in life, however much his poetry has made great changes to the small town. By chance, Yun Fei purchases a pirated CD which he discovers possesses a magical power that can help him succeed.

Yun Fei becomes famous overnight. But he finds that his situation in life does not improve as a result. His cheerful friend, Chen Xiaoyang, disappears unexpectedly, the black chickens come down with an unknown illness, and Yun Fei becomes depressed and tired of being a poet.

PAM_chicken1He abandons the CD in a pile of chicken feces, drives away Fang Fang whom he truly loves, and retreats alone to the abandoned hennery. In his sleep he dreams of an ostrich, the magical CD, and the chicken feces being planted in a rice field, giving rise to a large tree. The tree is full of beautiful poetry, and he and Fang Fang happily pick the poetry off the magical tree.

—Film notes by University of Iowa Cultural Center

“This delirious and caustic fable of ambition, success, and its consequences tells the story of an indecisive young poet, the lonely color-blind woman who loves him, and his entrepreneurial friend who leaves the city to raise a new breed of black chickens. An allegory of the emergent generation in China seeking overnight fame, wealth, and true love in the vacuum of the post-socialist period, the film is sprinkled with entertaining plot devices (such as the miraculous black eggs and a magical pirate CD), visual fantasy, and the dark angst characteristic of China’s “sixth-generation” filmmakers. Through an amusing and stirring sequence of strange events and images, the film expresses the inner conflict between strength and weakness, dream and reality.

The script for Chicken Poets was written by Meng’s wife Liao Yimei, said to be based on the real-life story of his classmate. For director Meng, “The people from the final generation of idealists in China are now in their thirties. This is a movie about that generation. When they were born determined their idealism in terms of the world; but by the time they were adults, the arrival of the commercial society rushed over them like a torrential wave, sweeping away the values, morals, and standards of society as they understood it. How are they going to face this new world that is different from their childhood? Their worries and hesitations are the story of the poet in this movie.”

—Film notes by UCSB Multi Cultural Center

Director’s Notes:

The final generation of idealists in China has already reached their thirties. First, this is a movie about that generation of people. The birth time of that generation of people has decided the idealistic attitude from these people regarding the world. However, after they’ve grown up, the arrival of commercial society is like a rushing torrent sweeping out the value, moral, and standard of society known to them, which has completely changed everything. How are they going to face this changed and new world that is different than their childhood time? Their worries and hesitations are the stories of the poet in the movie. The protagonist of the movie is a poet. Our poet seems to be weak and indecisive. He seems to be powerless, and, yet, he has an internal force stirring his heart.

The unsuccessful poet comes to a small town near the airport at the outskirts of Beijing. The small town in the movie is a fictitious scene. We are not pursuing after its reality but are after its trueness. It represents the nature of the developing China–located at the border of city and countryside, which possesses all the features of urban and rural integration.

Uncanny, intensive, pungent, and black!

Director: Meng JingHui
Producer: Zhao Hai, Ge Dali, & Meng Jinghui
Writer: Liao Yimei
Cinematographer: Cao Yu
Editor: Kong Jinglei
Music: Zhang Yang

Cast: Qin Hailu,Chen Tianbin, Liao Fan, Chen

Language: Cantonese
Cantonese: Xiang Ji Mao Yi Yang Fei
Running Time: 94 min

Locarno 02, Toronto 02: Discovery, Paris Indie 02, Tokyo Filmex 02, Bangkok Intl. 03, Hong Kong 03 (FIPRESCI Prize), Chonju 03, N.Y. Tribeca 03

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