Until recently, the streets in China’s towns and cities were filled with pedestrians, bikes, and motorbikes. Now they are filled with pedestrians, bikes, motorbikes, cars, and trucks. In Old Stone, directed by Chinese Canadian Johnny Ma, an ordinary taxi driver, Lao Shi (Chen Gang), enters the present-day streets of a Chinese city to pay for Adam’s and Eve’s sin. Lao Shi picks up a drunk middle-class man at a fancy hotel, and while driving to the drunk’s destination, the drunk, who sits beside him, suddenly grabs and turns the steering wheel. The car swerves and hits a man on a motorbike.
A crowd gathers around the bleeding man. It looks like he will not live. If he has any chance, it’s definitely not in the time it will take the ambulance to arrive and transport him to the emergency room. He needs medical attention right away. The taxi driver decides to take him to the hospital, and this kind act costs him everything (the little money he has, his marriage, his sanity).
Though the film’s story is simple, and its conclusion even predictable, it has many shots that capture the beauty of working-class spaces and mass-produced objects. The film also has a leitmotif of very moody and wind-moved trees. They are like the chorus in an ancient Greek play. But what they tell us is not what’s going in the story but the soul of the story. These trees know that the subjects of Chinese capitalism have been spiritually and morally deracinated. A city that rewards cruelty and punishes kindness is a Trump-type city.