Review of Loach is Fish Too (Niqiu ye shi yu, 2005)

Review of Loach is Fish Too (Niqiu ye shi yu, 2005), A Flying Dragon Movie & TV Co. production.
Director: YANG Yazhou
Producers: Ni Wei, Ai Qinghua
Screenwriter: Li Wei
Music: Lao Zai
Cinematographer: Wang Dong
Art Director: Huo Tingxiao
Editor: Ding Ruan, Xu Wei
Lighting: Yao Zhuoxi
Sound: Da Hua
Cast: Ni Ping, Ni Dahong, Pan Hong
Running time: 98 MIN.
Release in China: 2005.

Shaoyi’s Rating: C+ (Average)

Loach is Fish Too (Niqiu ye shi yu, 2005), d. YANG Yazhou

Loach is Fish Too (Niqiu ye shi yu, 2005), d. YANG Yazhou

Loach is Fish Too touches on the explosive subject of migrant workers, dubbed “floating populations,” flocking to the big cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou for better-paid jobs. Conservative Americans are building fences across the US-Mexico border to prevent illegal immigrants from entering the United States, but in China, the uneven development has made more than 100 million farmers flock to the big cities for opportunities. Building a fence to block them from entering the city would be both inhuman and self-destructive.

The film tells the story of two “Loaches”, female and male, embarking on a Beijing-bound train for a “better” life. The female Loach is recently divorced and carries the twin daughters with her, while the male Loach is a snakehead-like “boss” who from the beginning intends to take advantage of the female Loach’s vulnerability. Their city life, as one may predict, is full of hard labors and broken promises that involve stone-carrying at a construction site and mud-digging in an underground tunnel. As the story develops, however, the unlikely couple gets closer and intimate, and eventually becomes a real couple. Their relation is marked by punches, foul language, and constant quarrels. The male “Loach”, although a rude and money-thirsty man on surface, turns out to be a hero in the end by saving his co-worker in the tunnel.

Loach is Fish Too did a fair job in depicting migrant workers as dignified and caring human beings. As the title suggests, if “decent-looking” city dwellers are “fish”, then the migrant workers, despite being “Loaches”, are no different than their city fellows. This is certainly a noble effort that deserves our praise. On the other hand, however, the film fails to involve the audience on emotional level. Technically, it seems the film is always edited in a hurried motion, changing from one scene to anther without allowing breathing spaces in between. When it does slow down, the camera lingers on for no reason. The rhythm of the film, in other words, is not properly punctuated. Certain scenes are abruptly ended, followed by another equally abrupt scene that continues to disorient the audience. It is mainly because of this uneven rhythm, compounded by the exaggerated depiction of the “mob” character of the migrant workers that contribute to the failure of the film in the realm of emotional involvement. The film is loud, noisy, and hard to identify with. The director seems to be obsessed with the “raw” and “primitive” nature of the migrant workers, but at the same time forgets what the film really intends to convey: loach is fish, too.

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