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By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Directed by Jia Zhang-ke
Zeitgeist Films Ltd. 10/04 DVD/VHS Feature Film
Welcome to Beijing's World Park where you can visit famous sites from five continents including the Eiffel Tower, the pyramids, the Leaning Tower of Piza, and much more. Here you can see the world without ever leaving home. Many provincial workers at World Park have tried to adapt themselves to this surreal environment by convincing themselves that they are making more money here than they could ever have earned had they stayed in their home towns. Writer and director Jia Zhangke (Unknown Pleasures) makes the most of this theme park setting as the various characters play out their roles at work and in moments of rest and relaxation with lovers or friends. But underneath all the glitz of the fancy production numbers on a large stage in the main auditorium, many workers are living lives of quite desperation, alienated from their families and communities.
Tao (Zhao Tao) is a young dancer who performs in many Las Vegas-like numbers and wears different costumes at various locations throughout World Park. Her boyfriend, Taisheng (Chen Taisheng), is a security guard who is not pleased with her lack of emotional and physical responses to his lovemaking. She seems to be more expressive with a Russian woman who joins the troupe of performers. They become friends despite a language barrier.
Meanwhile, Taisheng does several errands to help workers from his hometown. When one of these young men dies in an accident at a construction site, Taisheng handles matters for the family, who have culture shock in Beijing. On another errand, he meets Qun (Wang Yiqun), an attractive married woman who creates designer clothes for young clients. They draw close to each other, but once she obtains a visa, she decides to leave the city.
Taisheng and Tao are not the only workers at the theme park who have an up-and-down relationship. A young man who can't trust his girlfriend is always on her back about where she's been. When she threatens to end the relationship, he sets the jacket he is wearing on fire. Later, she accepts his proposal of marriage and everyone in the performing troupe is happy.
Jia Zhanhg-ke explored urban alienation in Unknown Pleasures with élan but here he does it with even more panache and visual creativity.
The DVD includes an interview, the theatrical trailer, production notes, a text/photo gallery, and an on set photo gallery.
Screened at the 42nd New York Film Festival, October 2004
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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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