Jiang Xiao's Electric Shadows gathered her plenty of international attention. A sweet little film about two young kids growing up between movies. While very cute and endearing, it wasn't the most challenging of films. pk.com.cn, Xiao's second film, is a different story altogether. The film went by mostly unnoticed but is (almost) sure to leave a bigger mark in the long run.
Try to find a number of reviews on pk.com.cn and you'll notice that most of them attempt to label the film as part of the MTV-style. While somewhat understandable I've come to hate this particular description. Not only because MTV is very much a product of the 90s (and lost much of its core appeal in this new millennium), but mostly because it is used for everything even remotely reflecting modern youth culture, regardless of its actual stylistic characteristics and merits.
pk.com.cn isn't part of the MTV-generation, it's a film belonging to the flourishing internet generation. A generation that undoubtedly carries an MTV legacy, but has different ideals and motives. The fact that the film originated from an internet novel is part of that, product placement of websites another, but it's mostly a stylistic and structural thing. The short attention span of the surfer, the redo/rework/mashup attitude of the creator. Both are very apparent in pk.com.cn, in every department.
Apart from the last 20 minutes it is extremely hard to grasp anything more from the film than a simple look at two guys and a girl, contemporary style. Almost 7 years after graduating Li receives an email for a reunion. Most of the film is dedicated to his past, exploring the bond between Li, his best friend and a girl joining the both of them. This exploration is not so much narrative as it is emotional, expressing the state of characters and their evolution in its purest form. Only near the end of the film does Xiao reserve some room for morals and reflection.
Visually pk.com.cn is a collage of styles. It takes, imitates, mixes and blends different visual styles together to form a pretty unique flavor. While boasting quick edits and bold stylistic choices the whole is more organic and less jolted than what we got in the 90s. The score is an equally interesting mix of styles. Alternative pop, hip-hop and electronica are fused together, resulting in something that does not belong in either worlds but stands on its own two feet.
The style determines the pacing and the progression of the story. Regularly the film is paused for musical interludes featuring modern dance. Or simple stylistic reflections on the characters. And of course there's that guy in a polar bear suit that appears a couple of times throughout the film. All these things are part of the proud tradition of mashups, creating something new and fresh from existing bits and pieces.
Cinema is known to lag behind a little, so there's no doubt this films comes a good 10 years too soon. There is a bottom line, clearly defined in the last 20 minutes of the film, but the rest of it exists of snapshots, flashbacks and expressive collages. It's not really that pk.com.cn is difficult to follow, but keeping interested in a seemingly aimless story might be a bit much for most film fanatics.
Personally I really loved pk.com.cn. It's a production in touch with the state of mind of young people today while keeping a level of professionalism not often found in their creations. From afar, due to some fast editing and fuzzy storytelling this film might seem a victim of the MTV-style, but upon closer inspection you'll see there is something else going on. Something more post-2000.