Monday, July 13, 2015

Child's play

Don't think I've left China behind, or that it's let me go. For instance I've started watching Michelangelo Antonioni's 1972 documentary "Chung Kuo/Cina," my handy dandy projector giving me an image as big as a small movie theater. This long scene starting about twenty-odd minutes in (about 6 minutes into this YouTube instalment, which begins - be warned - with a C-section) shows children at play. Says the narrator:

Each big factory maintains a school, where the workers can send their children. Starting from childhood, they are prepared for the future life in a collectivist society. Their grace makes us forget that almost all songs they’re singing have political connotations.

I heard about the film in China but there wasn't a convenient way to see it. I'm watching it now because there's a clip from it playing in the Met's "China Through the Looking Glass" show - another scene of children singing - and I noticed some older Chinese tourists half-audibly singing it under their breath. (My blurry picture at right shows the display, as you come down the stairs from the China galleries, with a clip from the famous model opera "Red Detachment of Women" playing, along with fashion inspired by parodies of Mao portraits). I was born the same year as the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Watching these kids I found myself thinking that if I had also been born in the land of the GPCR, I might have been one of them. What a life would I have had? How would I have made sense of it today?

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