Unknown Pleasures Movie Review
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.
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