Synopsis:In modern-day Beijing, two boys from the same family end up on opposite ends of the same moral spectrum. Xiao Bo, seeking a career that allows him adventure and freedom from commitment while providing enough cash to keep him in designer clothes, turns to a life of prostitution. His brother Dabin is an Evangelical Christian who wants to save his brother from eternal damnation. Scheming to convince the boys of Beijing to reform their ways and find a path to happiness that doesn’t force them to sell their bodies on the streets, Dabin himself gets involved in prostitution when Xiao Bo goes missing. But will Dabin’s outrageous plan to martyr himself to his cause pay off – or will he fall into the same inescapable trap that ensnared his little brother?
I know exactly what you’re thinking. “Hey! We suffered through all those Japanese animation reviews, but then she promised us she’d get back to classic film! And now we gotta read about some obscure direct-to-video Chinese movie from 2003? What gives?!? Is this an April Fools’ joke?”
Well, yes. But it’s not an April Fools’ joke on you – it’s a joke on me.
A “white elephant” is defined as “a possession entailing great expense out of proportion to its usefulness or value to the owner.” It’s almost as if Zi’en Cui, the writer/director/producer of Feeding Boys, Ayaya (which I have been referring to around the house as Feeding Boys, Aye Carumba!), expected his film to become a white elephant, and therefore put as little time, money, and effort into it as possible. It doesn’t really matter if your film doesn’t make any profit whatsoever when you only spent $4 on it to begin with. Then again, it also turns the whole thing into a self-fulfilling prophecy, doesn’t it? Because, at its core, I don’t believe Feeding Boys is a bad film. The premise – about an Evangelical virgin in Beijing who seeks to infiltrate the world of male prostitution only to help its members see the light and reform their ways – is intriguing and original to say the least. But it’s not only the extremely low budget the film suffers from; the filmmakers also seem to lack even a basic understanding of how to make a movie. I wonder if the director has even seen a movie. The camera wobbles constantly, performers are perpetually out of frame – they filmed an entire daytime scene against a plate glass window, for goodness’ sake! I try pretty hard not to blame a filmmaker for things that are out of their control, such as budget and lack of formal training – but really, I’m only human. There’s only so much I can forgive.
This film asks its audience to bring a whole lot to the table – an understanding of Chinese culture and the role of homosexuality within it, for one – which I was just not capable of providing. That’s not anybody’s fault, really; I understand when a film has an intended audience, and I understand when I’m not a part of that audience. Things get lost in translation and it can’t be helped. I’m sure there’s some deeply important message here that I’m just completely missing due to my utter unfamiliarity with the subject matter. I know this because the single positive review on Netflix tells me so:
All are commenting that this movie was horribly made – thats part of the point and you have missed it. This movie was not meant to impress with flashy cinematography or lighting or clever dialogue or subtle symbolism. . . . Do not watch this movie if you are looking to be amused or entertained or impressed by fancy camera work. Not the point.
While I won’t go into the fundamental problems I have with the notion that it’s presumptuous of me to expect a movie to be entertaining, amusing, or watchable, I’d like to flat-out disagree with the idea that I expected to be impressed with “flashy cinematography or lighting.” I never asked for that. What I wanted was cinematography that didn’t make me feel like I was on a boat on a choppy day – which, combined with the droning string instruments overlayed with high-pitched electronic noise, made me feel literally nauseous the vast majority of the time – and some lighting. Any lighting would’ve been fine. But I guess that’s “not the point.”
Fortunately for me, the vast majority of reviewers on both Netflix and IMDb also “missed the point,” and captured the experience of watching this film in ways much more eloquent and accurate than I could ever hope to express:
Deplorably boring film consisting mostly of dialog supplemented with extended waste of film lingering on unrelated scenes of a guy chasing a dog through a park apparently intended to extend length of film to a required viewing time.
. . . the cameraman must get bored (I can relate!) because while two actors are speaking the cameraman pans off them and films a tree. Another time he films the floor.
This film is bad. I don’t normally mind low budgets, but in this film it really hurted me to watch it. . . . This film seemed more like a psychotic experiment. Avoid this film like the Black Death!
Imagine Blair Witch done with a camcorder by a five year old… then change the story to this and you have…well…This.
It does not even qualify as a movie.
If there is a film school out there that needs the perfect example to show in what the pitfalls are in the making of a movie then this is the film to use.
This film has a running time of 80 minutes. Watch this and you’ll swear that time has stood still.
I may just make it my life goal to stop the world from watching this movie, just like the brother tries to stop the young men from prostituting. It would be a noble cause!
I’m giving this film one star: half for the one truly hilarious scene where the Bible study buddy condemns the Evangelical’s idea to become a male prostitute whilst clad in nothing but a zebra-print Speedo – which I couldn’t screencap for you, sadly, as I want to maintain this blog’s PG rating – and the other half to give it the benefit of the doubt. Maybe if I was a young gay Chinese man, this movie would really speak to me. (After all, I don’t think I’d have a lot of other representations in Chinese media to latch onto.) But, no matter what rumors you may have heard, I’m not a young gay Chinese man. I’m just me. And it hurted me to watch it.
Feeding Boys, Ayaya (2003) – 1/5 stars