Contemporary street-corner kids in China make good use of their time, because they want to die young. Before then, Xiao Ji first wants to bed a model; Bin Bin is mainly interested in karaoke. The third film by the greatest talent of the Chinese cinema.
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"Who wants to live a long life? Thirty years is plenty enough" Xiao Ji muses in Jia Zhangke's neo-realist existential portrait of disaffected youth. Shot in Datong, a northern industrial city in Shanxi province, in 2002, Unknown Pleasures follows three friends whose restless lives pivot with China's emergent but uncertain economy in the years before the Beijing Olympics. An evocative work of generational angst.
The film starts out slowly, almost deliberately. It could be a few minutes shorter, but that is its only flaw. Once it picks up speed, it becomes enjoying. It is very stylized and flowy, so that the director's influences are sometimes apparent, but the overall effect is rather smooth. The character's aimlessness is depicted wonderfully, with some scenes reminiscent of The 400 Blows and similar youth-in-revolt films.