After the historical panorama of Platform, Jia's third feature (shot on DV) returns to the scale and style of Xiao Wu. Indeed, Xiao Wu himself (the inimitable Wang Hongwei) makes a couple of reappearances here, latterly back on the streets as a loan shark. But the central characters are Xiao Ji and Binbin, jobless 19-year-olds in Datong, fairly typical of China's current 'no future' generation. Xiao Ji (Wu) makes a shy play for the dancer Qiao Qiao (Zhao Tao, from Platform), undaunted by the fact that she's a gangster's mistress; Binbin (Zhao Weiwei) sings karaoke with a girl who's about to leave to study in Beijing. Eventually they get around to thinking about robbing a bank. Jia integrates both fact (the awarding of the Olympics to Beijing, ads for the Shanxi provincial lottery) and references to news events (the detonation of a block of flats by a laid-off worker) to build up a credible sense of the fast-changing present, but he's interested in a lot more than social reportage. As in the other films, his perspective is essentially spiritual: this lays bare the tao of contemporary China, like a doctor taking a pulse.
Cast and crew