Reviewed by Adrian Sim
Chinese Title: Man Yan
Director: He Jian Jun
Year Released: 2004
Pirated Copy is a gripping and immensely engaging slice of cinema verité. I must say that for a Chinese film, it's rather bold with its depictions of stark violence and sex.
I like how the film wryly draws parallels between the pornographic and art house films that the characters watch on pirated VCDs/DVDs and their equally dramatic, if torpid and nihilistic, lives.
The film is quite an eye-opener. Now I know that piracy is such a prevalent and flourishing business in China. The DVDs/VCDs are even used for teaching purposes. Also, the pirates are actually rather well-educated (they read a lot of books) and well-versed in art house fare like the works of Ingmar Bergman.
I was amused by the subplot involving a prostitute-cum-movie-fanatic trading sex for 50 DVDs. The attempted gang rape scene is realistically directed and audaciously staged.
Much like Moodysson's A Hole in My Heart, Pirated Copy is a downer of a film that paints a gritty, warts and all, portrait of emotionally eviscerated urbanites caught in an existential crisis. Sex has become a casual respite, often performed hastily and animalistically.
Theres lots of eye candy too, especially the bespectacled pirated VCDs/DVD seller. The Chinese boys look rather cute in police uniforms (hehe!).
The last scene, which lasts about 10 min, where the seller runs swiftly away from the police, sums up the film very well. The lives of these peeps are forever unstable and under threat and no matter where they run, it seems never-ending and they cannot seem to escape life's inexorable clutches.
On a side note, I just wonder if the producers got copyright clearance to use the footage from so many films, even pornographic ones. Surely, a defense of fair use should work right? (Not to sound legalese!)