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Plexifilm presents
Wasted Orient (2007)

"Rock and roll is boring."
- Bian Yuan

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: September 24, 2007

Stars: Bian Yuan, Liu Hao, Fan Bo, Yang Yang, Xin Shuang
Director: Kevin Fritz

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language)
Run Time: 01h:32m:52s
Release Date: September 25, 2007
UPC: 082354004125
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- C+B-B- C

DVD Review

It might be 30 years after the rest of the world, but China is finally undergoing a punk rock boom. Here and there, bands are rising up out of poverty, strapping on guitars and leather jackets, and blasting out glorious three-chord rage to anyone that will listen. While living briefly in China, filmmaker Kevin Fritz fell in with the struggling band Joyside, a Beijing group about to embark on their very first tour, a nine-city excursion dubbed "Insanity and Unsanitary." Wasted Orient documents the band's journey, a weaving, crowded travel-by-train odyssey powered by endless cigarettes and large bottles of beer.

Fritz captures the band in all of the familiar punky swagger, and in his liner notes he refers to Joyside as "the perfect group of folks because they don't give a shit." Living together in a crowded low-income Beijing flat—full of filthy and apparently smelly public toilets—each member of Joyside is given the opportunity to give a little background on themselves, typically expressing their disdain for normalcy or personal hygiene. We get scratch-off glimpses of the group—Bian Yuan, Liu Hao, Fan Bo, Yang Yang, and later Xin Shuang—as they drink, smoke, and spout mantras such as "rock and roll is an addiction to chaos."

The nine stop tour finds the band playing in a string of similar hole-in-the-wall venues across China to small but appreciative crowds, thrashing and screaming tunes like I Want to Piss Around You and A Girl From London, which then leads to more drunken ramblings and camera mugging as they prepare for the next long train ride. There's a distinct lather-rinse-repeat feel to the way the Joyside story plays out, and minus a bit of internal drama near one of the final tour stops, it all gets to be like watching a set of drunken vacation movies.

Don't get wrong, I'm a punk diehard from way back, having lived through the original wave back in the mid 1970s. That sense of anarchistic vitriol was like oxygen in those days, and seeing a band like Joyside now experiencing that same kind of musical adrenaline rush is certainly a reassuring and comforting thing, just knowing the spirit is still getting reborn in places that seem ripe for the message. It's just that as a film, Wasted Orient ultimately goes nowhere, instead starting and ending with no real grand revelation or purpose.

I understand that Fritz shot this for less than $2,500 on rented Chinese equipment; in a way he was sort of living the punk lifestyle as a filmmaker, so perhaps one needs to step back from Wasted Orient to view it as an offshoot of the movement. I did walk away from this confident that the legacy of The Sex Pistols, The Dead Boys, and Johnny Thunders has been reborn in China among a new generation of angry, disenfranchised youth, and that has to count for something.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Wasted Orient comes from Plexifilm in its original 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio. Shot on what Kevin Fritz called a "negative budget" in the liner notes, the final product is not nearly as roughshod as it could have been. Colors come off slightly flat and a bit dreary, but overall the presentation is free of any major nicks or dirt, and seems to capture the whole drab punk underground of China in all of its sweaty, alcoholic haze.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Chineseno

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is 2.0 stereo surround, and is largely a front-centric mix. The bulk of the material is on-location interviews with the band in various locales, and voice quality is serviceable, with no significant distortion. The only time the audio is slightly unclean is during a couple of live performances, where things tend to clip often.

Subdued, but tolerable.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 13 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
3 Deleted Scenes
Production Notes
Packaging: clear plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Under the heading More Wasted are what amount to three deleted scenes running 06m:12s, ranging from a live performance to more much-needed puking. A tri-fold insert carries comments from director Kevin Fritz, written in January 2006, where he attempts to encapsulate his time in China and how the project came about.

The disc is cut into 13 chapters.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

Punk is struggling to stay alive and well in China, as Kevin Fritz follows the Beijing band Joyside on a cramped, boozy tour of their home country. As a partial peek inside the Chinese subculture of underground music, it has its moments, but there's a little too much corny mugging and beer-fueled pontificating and it all starts to look and sound the same.


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