A fine eye for sleazy, depressive atmosphere distinguishes Pan Jianlin’s ironically titled “Good Morning Beijing,” a movie that takes place almost entirely at night and which offers very little to feel good about. The latest example of the gritty, no-budget, extraordinarily risk-taking work being done in Mainland China by independent/underground filmmakers, pic’s intriguing diptych structure and uncompromised seedy aesthetic should guarantee it playdates at more adventurously programmed fests.
Purportedly based on true events, pic crosscuts two independent narratives that may or may not share common threads. In the first, a scantily clad, disoriented young woman finds herself in a dark, vacant apartment that, over the course of pic’s running time, gradually fills up with random couples engaging in acts of paid-for sex. In pic’s other story, a man traverses the streets of Beijing in search of his missing wife, who may or may not be the woman in the mysterious apartment. Though never easy (or particularly enjoyable) to watch, pic exudes a strong fascination as it depicts a China rarely glimpsed in other films, building to a dramatic final revelation that is genuinely startling.