Still Life, the director's last stateside-distributed film object about the displaced wanderers surviving on the outskirts of the Three Gorges Dam project, demonstrated how very strange life in rural China has become. In Jia's new film 24 City, which takes place in Chengdu City, the most memorable images are more subdued and compacted: An assembly of workers singing "The International," a factory being demolished, Joan Chen playing a one-time factory employee whose co-workers remark that she resembles Joan Chen.
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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.
Continue reading: Unknown Pleasures Review