Unknown Pleasures

"Excellent"

Unknown Pleasures Review


"The songs, the songs, the bloody, bloody songs..." So said British screenwriter Dennis Potter in his tough-edged nostalgia series The Singing Detective. And maybe we hold on to them because we identify and attach so many feelings to those dumb pop tunes: our childhood, relationships, break-ups, high school boredom, etc. The poverty stricken, disaffected teenagers of Jia Zhangke's Unknown Pleasures wind up using songs to express desires and dreams so buried they don't even know where it's coming from. But continually, Jia's camera lingers on glazed young faces (set against backdrops of urban decay) as they softly sing to themselves. Music is the thing that brings us all together, and to paraphrase Stanley Kubrick, a truck driver can empathize with a Beatles tune as surely as a Harvard scholar. It has the ability to connect with everyone, and perhaps international audiences will connect with the Chinese youth of Unknown Pleasures for the exact same reason.

Unemployed boys go girl crazy in Unknown Pleasures, and one of them, Xiao Ji (Wu Qiong) falls hard for a singer (Zhao Tao) and sometime prostitute. She's unique in that she sells herself and her body, while at the same time promoting Mongolian King liquor for her money grubbing boyfriend. That's the almost cutesy story, told in lingering wide shots and photographed for maximum naturalism on digital video. The video actually serves to undercut whatever sentimentality might be there in the awkward gazes between girls and boys... the tone of the picture is hard documentary realism, the length of the takes emphasizes the discomfort of real time.

Set in the grittiest apartment buildings and ashtray colored nightclubs, there's no romanticized Moulin Rouge world here -- boy meets girl, and the clunking semi-industrial world marches on without them. Unfortunately, there's an over-reliance on glib, knee-jerk recitations of pop culture; the type of dialogue that Hal Hartley and Quentin Tarantino use to fill in their long takes find their Oriental companion here. It's just as unimaginatively plopped into the movie and left to speak for itself. The cinematic image bends to talkiness, and Tarantino might be proud.

Unknown Pleasures's rather slight story is placed against the backdrop of apartment complexes being knocked to the ground, underground clubs popping up everywhere with unchecked crime and a Westernized pop-bubble gum sensibility. The Monkey King-brand beer sells out Oriental history, and the only thing that keeps these kids and the working class adults going is the hope of the 2008 Olympics coming to Beijing. As culture gets flushed down the toilet, the kids keep on singing. The devastating final shot of the young protagonist, back against the wall, softly making his way through his favorite pop tune, has its character heading into an uncertain future -- where the only thing worth hanging on to are the bloody, bloody songs and the feelings they evoke.

Aka Ren xiao yao .

It's all over for the unknown soldier.



Unknown Pleasures

Facts and Figures

Run time: 112 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 22nd January 2003

Distributed by: New Yorker Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 63%
Fresh: 17 Rotten: 10

IMDB: 7.0 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: Wei Wei Zhao as Bin Bin, Qiong Wu as Xiao Ji, as Qiao Qiao, Qing Feng Zhou as Yuan Yuan

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

The Party Movie Review

The Party Movie Review

Comedies don't get much darker than this pitch-black British movie, written and directed by Sally...

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha) is on his way to becoming the new Woody Allen, which...

6 Below Movie Review

6 Below Movie Review

Based on an astonishing true survival story, this film is subtitled "Miracle on the Mountain",...

Mother Movie Review

Mother Movie Review

Darren Aronofsky doesn't make fluffy movies, and has only had one genuine misfire (2014's Noah)....

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

It's been 35 years since Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic, which was set in 2019....

On the Road Movie Review

On the Road Movie Review

Wolf Alice fans are likely to be rather disappointed by this hybrid documentary-drama about the...

Borg/McEnroe Movie Review

Borg/McEnroe Movie Review

Skilfully made by Swedish filmmaker Janus Metz (the award-winning Armadillo), this film is essentially a...

Advertisement
The Glass Castle Movie Review

The Glass Castle Movie Review

There are quite a few terrific moments in this true story, based on the memoir...

Home Again Movie Review

Home Again Movie Review

Reese Witherspoon is so likeable that she can carry even the most hackneyed of romantic...

Brimstone Movie Review

Brimstone Movie Review

An unnerving Western with a sharp female perspective, this film is a series of gruesome...

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Movie Review

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Movie Review

Two years ago, Kingsman: The Secret Service seemed to come out of nowhere, ruffling feathers...

Goodbye Christopher Robin Movie Review

Goodbye Christopher Robin Movie Review

This biopic about Winnie the Pooh author A.A. Milne may look like the usual lushly...

Wind River Movie Review

Wind River Movie Review

After writing the superb Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan moves back into...

The Vault Movie Review

The Vault Movie Review

Filmmakers Dan Bush and Conal Byrne attempt a mash-up of a frantic heist movie with...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.