3 minute read

Shanghai, China is nearly 1,300 years old, but the vast majority of its growth took place in the past 35 years, during which time the population doubled and rapidly modernized. 

Time-lapse satellite photography shows a city that, for hundreds of years, occupied the same area it did when it was called Qinglong Town, but starting in 1985 or so, Shanghai grew upward and outward.

Great spires of progress shot out of the Yangtze River estuary seemingly overnight, and Western-style suburbs and malls overtook centuries-old country homes and farmland. The population doubled in 35 years, the kind of sudden rise that would give any society a case of the bends. 

This is the city at the heart of Dead Pigs, writer-director Cathy Yan’s satirical film about the pains and strains of Shanghai’s freakish growth. 

Music and film

by Brett Fieldcamp

Sponsored by True Sky Credit Union

Yan builds her multiple plot strings around a 2013 incident in which thousands of pig carcasses began filling the Huangpu River, dumped there by farmers who could no longer pay to properly dispose of the bodies. Yan sees the same thing happening to the humans occupying this newly futuristic city. 

Dead Pigs screens at 5:30 p.m. Friday, 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at Oklahoma City Museum of Art, 415 Couch Drive. Visit okcmoa.com.

Candy Wang, played by the great Chinese-American actor Vivian Wu, owns a successful beauty salon and lives in an ancient blue house that was once part of a teeming neighborhood. But all of that is gone now. 

Candy’s house is the lone holdout in a sea of rubble, the surrounding houses razed to build a thoroughly ridiculous high-rise housing development based on Barcelona architecture that will feature a cheesy replica of Antoni Gaudi’s Basílica de la Sagrada Família. Candy is proud and stubborn enough to stand in the way of this supposed progress, no matter how much money the property developer, Golden Happiness, throws her way. 

Meanwhile, her brother Old Wang (Haoyu Yang), who owns half of the family home, is one of those farmers dumping swine into the river — the pigs are dying under mysterious circumstances. Because of his financial straits, he is far more willing to sell Candy out, and the Golden Happiness crew, led by American architect Sean (David Rysdahl), is pulling out all the stops to get Candy out of there. 

The divides between foreign and domestic culture, old China and new China, the rich and the poor all get their due in Dead Pigs, as Old Wang’s son Zhen (Mason Lee), a struggling waiter, finds himself in a deepening relationship with social media model Xia Xia (Meng Li), who is dealing with her own loneliness and urban malaise. 

And Sean, who seems to have arrived in Shanghai in need of a fresh start, finds that his particular brand of B.S. is highly prized within the Golden Happiness corporate hierarchy. 

Released in China in 2018 and just arriving in the U.S., Dead Pigs mixes its comedy with doses of realism, though the satire is occasionally too obvious. This could be ascribed to the restrictions associated with Chinese film productions, which too often must trim the rough edges to fit People’s Republic of China orthodoxy. But Dead Pigs connects with its targets often enough to generate its share of both comedy and tragedy. 

Given her ease with tying up multiple plot streams, it makes sense that Yan was tapped to direct the 2020 DC Universe film Birds of Prey, which was not especially good but displayed Yan’s visual chops. Dead Pigs is unquestionably the better film of the two, and it bodes well for Yan’s continued visions of societies gone haywire. 

And … this!

Whether you were brought into the comings and goings at 221B Baker Street by reading The Hound of the Baskervilles or got ushered into the mysteries by Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC’s Sherlock, the new traveling exhibit Sherlock Holmes: The Exhibition will offer more than just elementary surprises. 

This hands-on exhibit, on display at Science Museum Oklahoma, 2020 Remington Place, is for all ages and levels of curiosity. Visit sciencemuseumok.org.

Last Updated May 27, 2021, 7:09 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor