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Based upon the novel The Dismissal by Ermanno Rea, in essence the story's about the slow friendship that develops between an Italian maintenance technician Vincenzo Buonavolonta (Sergio Castellitto, who can be seen as the villainous King in Prince Caspian, and was the lead in Bella Martha) and a Chinese translator Liu Hua (Ling Tai). They set off actually on the wrong foot, with the former chastising the latter for her inaccurate, and slow translations of what he wanted to tell a Chinese delegate who had bought equipment that is faulty. Vincenzo wants to do the right thing, which is rare in these days, and that is to tell the prospective buyers upfront the faults as well as the intricacies that their purchase would bring, and given that he's disturbed by the fact that the deal still went ahead, he takes time off to craft a component that would set things right.
But that also means to travel to China in search of the elusive machine, which proves to be well hidden, and seemingly having vanished without a trace. With the initial reluctant help of Liu Hua, they set off in this treasure hunt from city to city, which brings us to lesser seen sights of China, away from the Beijings and the Shanghais, to cities like Wuhan, with industrial like backdrops such as steel mills and nuclear plants with their smoke stacks dotting the scenery. The mighty Yangtze River also makes an appearance. Along the way, the usual trappings of such travelogue styled movies come into play, such as the learning of culture, ideals, food, and basically, the understanding that the world is without strangers, if only one makes an effort to try and connect. While hints of some romance between the two leads are suggested, it rarely made itself to be a moot point, until perhaps late in the movie (hey, opposites attract, no?)
Besides the major industrial plants and factories, We get to see various cottage industry, like seamstresses working in sweat shop like environments, and I believe Cotton too, along with noodle making. As a film, it provided me the travelling opportunity without leaving my seat to observe, and credit to it for not passing judgement from a moral high ground on exploitation and the likes. And kudos too for the movie to engage in dialogue based on the characters' native tongues, rather than (and I shall not name names here) some other movie / cross-cultural collaborations where dialogue is forced-dubbed and came off unnatural, and truly irksome. Some might deem the supporting characters to be too kind too, always opening their arms and doors to a foreigner, but I would like to imagine that maybe in the more rural areas, people in general tend to be more sincere, friendly and basically not get caught up in the rat race to trample on others, or be trampled upon.
If there's a message to take away from the movie, besides the fact that I mentioned that the world is without strangers, is a reminder to myself that some of the stuff I deem important, may not be so to others. Importance is something one places upon something else, and its basis really depends on how we define the boundaries we set. So given our finite lifetime, I think I should lighten up a bit more, live and let live, and sometimes bask in the illusion that ignorance could be bliss.
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