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Peking's sellout movie: a tale of love and striving in a Chinese factory

By Takashi OkaStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / October 11, 1983



Peking

''I want a God to comfort me when I'm lonely,'' sobs a girl in a movie that has been showing before packed audiences here in China's capital. ''I want a God who will keep my mother from having seizures when I have to be working on the night shift.''

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The film, entitled ''Our Blood Is Always Hot,'' has as its theme the efforts of a factory director to complete a foreign order for hand-printed silk scarves within a contract deadline.

A subplot takes up the love story of two young workers in the factory. As this story unfolds, Christianity is portrayed in a sympathetic light - for perhaps the first time since l949.

In words, factory director Luo Xingang tries to follow the economic reforms promoted by China's present leaders, giving more initiative to individual enterprises.

In practice, Luo meets one obstacle after another. His associates, including the party secretary, are well-meaning but see no reason to stick their necks out and to abandon their politically safe but economically inefficient ways. Some of them are venal, requiring ''gifts'' before granting authorizations.

There are marvelous vignettes of the way in which party cadres live. In one scene that has the audience rolling in the aisles, Luo and his assistant set up a meeting with an accountant from a ''higher authority,'' titillating him with an expensive stereophonic cassette-recorder which is ceremoniously unwrapped and placed conspicuously on the table. The accountant unwarily signs and stamps the required authorization, whereupon Luo thanks him, picks up the authorization and the cassette-recorder and disappears into a waiting taxi.

An accumulation of such ''irregularities'' brings Luo to the verge of suspension just as the order is about to be completed. As cars from investigating authorities converge on the factory, Luo makes one last appeal to the workers. ''Someone told me,'' he says, ''that our economic system is like an enormous, unwieldy machine. If a few cogs get rusty, the whole thing breaks down.

''To keep the machine oiled, we have to use our own blood. After all, blood is always hot.'' The appeal has its intended effect but leaves Luo's own fate far from clear. The film, in effect, makes a statement about the blood, sweat, and tears required to carry out economic reform. As for the subplot, Song Qiaozhen, a girl who works on the night shift at the factory, is in love with a co-worker. Qiaozhen is a member of the Communist Youth League, but her father died under a cloud because he had been a follower of the ''gang of four'' during the Cultural Revolution. Her mother is paralyzed and requires constant care, especially at night. But Qiaozhen's appeals to be moved to the day shift are turned down because of her father's background. Her love affair also does not run smoothly.

A kindly neighbor offers to help with the housework. But Qiaozhen is unwilling to let her do this because the woman is a Christian. However, as one problem after another piles on Qiaozhen's frail shoulders, she listens to the neighbor's explanation that ''as Christians we are taught to love our neighbors.'' The next scene shows her praying in a church, and still later her foreman finds her with a crucifix around her neck in addition to her Young Communist League badge on her lapel. When she hesitates as the foreman demands that she choose between one or the other, he angrily rips the badge off.

Later, director Luo, hearing the whole story, goes to the girl's one-room apartment to offer his apologies. ''We,'' he says - meaning the factory authorities and the Young Communist League - ''should have paid more attention, we should have realized your problems and been more concerned about them.''

Luo restores the Young Communist badge to Qiaozhen and leaves it up to her as to whether or not she wants to continue being a Christian.

At points, there are scenes of the church. As with the main theme of the film , the conclusion of the subplot is ambiguous: We do not know if the girl's problems will be solved, or whether she will continue to be a Christian. The emphasis is not so much on Christianity's success as on the failure of the Young Communist League to keep the girl's loyalty. But this is already a theme novel enough to bring forth pointed comments from the audience.

''What the girl wanted was so simple,'' said one man walking out of the cinema. ''As she herself said, she just wanted to be comforted when she was lonely and for her mother not to be sick during her absence. If the Young Communist League could not help her over such a simple matter, how can you blame her for turning somewhere else?''