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China 2005
Directed by
Jia Zhangke
130 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

The World

Jia Zhangke is a leading member of the “Sixth Generation” of Chinese directors, not as well known to the west as “Fifth Generation” directors such as Zhang Yimou, Chen Kaige, Tian Zhuangzhuang, and Li Shaohong. This, his most polished effort to date, will principally appeal to film buffs, particularly those who appreciated works such as Edward Yang’s Yi Yi - A One & A Two (2000) or the films of Abbas Kiarostami with his low key, apparently meandering but carefully constructed stories.

Set in a theme park in Beijing which offers nationals to whom overseas travel is not available a scaled-down version of some of the real world’s architectural icons like the Eiffel Tower and the Taj Mahal, it follows the daily lives of a group of people not only employed here but apparently housed on-site. The real concern, however, is in creating a portrait of life in contemporary China, divided between its status as a developed consumerist nation conforming to Western ambitions and one still regulated by Communist ideology.

Zhao Tao, Jia's favourite lead actress plays a singer and dancer whose boyfriend (Cheng Taisheng) is one of the park’s security guards. The film opens brilliantly with Zhao in her exotic costume striding through the labyrinthine bowels of the theatre calling out like a fishwife for a Band-Aid. Thus the core theme of incongruity is established visually and heralds what is an often -striking and thoughtful work that repays attention.




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