Fenyang in Shanxi Province, Jia's hometown and already the setting for Xiao Wu, provides the anchor for an epic account of the changes in China's pop culture in the 1980s, as seen across the lives of four friends. In 1979 all four are members of a state-run variety troupe, presenting Maoist propaganda shows to passive audiences in the sticks. By the mid-1980s, when state support is withdrawn and the troupe tries to reform as a private enterprise, everything is different: the Maoist repertoire is buried, Taiwanese pop is ubiquitous, ideas of personal wealth and independence are on the rise - and old friendships are under strain. And by the end of the decade the couple seemingly made for each other have gone separate ways, while the joker/live wire Mingliang (Wang Hongwei) has become a somnolent husband and father. Jia uses large-scale vignettes, filmed in sequence shots, to chart ten years of far-reaching social changes and their psychological repercussions. A masterly achievement. (A 'streamlined version' cut by some 35 minutes also exists.