"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.
An original in a certain style of new new wave cinema. I am not a fan of such silencious, direct and raw cinema, away from any kind of baroque imagination. I find it is too easy to film reality like this. I am glad it is on the way out after a long lasting trend...I don't feel that lost. People should be less lazy !
While I think I might have to rewatch this film, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed watching it the first time. I'm not entirely sure what it was, but it was very satisfying to sit through. I loved the way the film handled the youth of China, and what they're attempting to do with their lives, which seems to be nothing more than living in the moment; this comes with less-than pleasing consequences. Savvy