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Thread: THE WORLD - Jia Zhangke

  1. #1
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    THE WORLD - Jia Zhangke

    Seen at the Vancouver International Film Festival

    THE WORLD (Shijie)

    Directed by Jia Zhangke (2004)

    "…my world seems to be getting bigger, and my horizons are getting broader, but I feel at a loss in the world. I can't understand the world clearly. The film expresses this kind of puzzlement." - Jia Zhangke


    Jia Zhangke's The World, his first state supported film, continues his look at the disillusionment of Chinese youth with Western-style globalization but shifts the setting from a rural to an urban environment. Young people work at Beijing's 114-acre "World Park", a sprawling Chinese Disneyland that displays scale models of famous landmarks such as The Eiffel Tower, The Pyramids of Egypt, The Leaning Tower of Pisa, The Taj Mahal, and The Vatican. For most of the low-paid employees, however, it is the closest they will ever come to seeing the world. Jointly produced by the Shanghai Film Group Corporation and Hong Kong's Xinghui Production Company, The World, unlike his previous independent work (Unknown Pleasures, Platform), has a big budget, glossy special effects, animation sequences, colorfully costumed song and dance routines, and uncharacteristic melodramatic plot contrivances.

    The film's main protagonists are young Chinese who have come to the city from rural areas to find work at the theme park and come in contact with migrants, petty criminals, and other lowlife characters who seem to thrive in this consumer-centered environment. The plot consists of the turbulent love affair between a dancer named Tao (Zhao Tao) who performs in lavish shows at the park and a security guard named Taisheng (Chen Taisheng) who has trouble remaining faithful to her. Zhao Tao, who has appeared in other Jia films, is sparkling in her role as the dancer whose horizons become more and more constricted. When she tells him, “You’re my whole life.” he replies, “You can’t count on anyone these days. Don’t think so much of me.” As critic David Walsh points out, "all the young people have great trouble expressing their emotions to one another; they prefer cell-phones and text messages. The picture of a terribly repressed and repressive society, with vast problems and contradictions, begins to emerge".

    The employees live in overcrowded dorms or sleazy hotels and a group of Russian performers have their passports taken away when they arrive and some are forced to become prostitutes. In a heartbreaking sequence, Tao's brother Erxiao is arrested by the police for petty theft, and his brother, a construction worker known as "little sister", experiences a distressing industrial accident. Jia presents the world in small episodes, similar he says to the "way you use a computer—you click here, you click there, each time leading you to another location." The vignettes, however, did not come together for me as a totally satisfying experience and the animation effects seemed showy. The World has stunning visuals and relevant social commentary and I'm happy to see Jia achieve a wider audience by working through the system, but by the end of The World, I felt that the sharp edge of his previous films had been lost.

    GRADE: B+
    "They must find it hard, those who have taken authority as truth, rather than truth as authority" Gerald Massey

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    Re: THE WORLD - Jia Zhangke

    Originally posted by Howard Schumann

    The World has stunning visuals and relevant social commentary and I'm happy to see Jia achieve a wider audience by working through the system, but by the end of The World, I felt that the sharp edge of his previous films had been lost.
    Interesting comment Howard, and this was perhaps one thing I was afraid of. I'm sure you didn't want to give too much away by going in detail but this is something I plan to watch closely to see if infact there's a compromise in his vision. As you mentioned this is the first 'above-ground' or state supported film from Jia (the crown-jewel among sixth generation) and hopefully unlike some of the fifth-generation filmmakers he'll continue to comment on the modern day realities in China. He's a bit of a radical just like Tian Zhuangzhuang (who was banned after The Blue Kite and just returned) but I think Jia is much more humorous and that nagging kind of humor can be seen throughout his first 3 films.
    Last edited by arsaib4; 10-06-2004 at 07:20 PM.

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    Re: Re: THE WORLD - Jia Zhangke

    Originally posted by arsaib4
    [B]

    Interesting comment Howard, and this was perhaps one thing I was afraid of. I'm sure you didn't want to give too much away by going in detail but this is something I plan to watch closely to see if infact there's a compromise in his vision. As you mentioned this is the first 'above-ground' or state supported film from Jia (the crown-jewel among sixth generation) and hopefully unlike some of the fifth-generation filmmakers he'll continue to comment on the modern day realities in China. He's a bit of a radical just like Tian Zhuangzhuang (who was banned after The Blue Kite and just returned) but I think Jia is much more humorous and that nagging kind of humor can be seen throughout his first 3 films.
    This is something you will have to judge for yourself. It was just an impression I had after a sequence I thought was false and contrived, something I never saw in his earlier films. Perhaps I judged it too harshly.
    "They must find it hard, those who have taken authority as truth, rather than truth as authority" Gerald Massey

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    Distribution

    Some good news I guess; The World will be distributed by Zeitgeist Films in the U.S. The film was bought from Celluloid Dreams at the AFM market held recently. No release date scheduled yet.

    http://www.zeitgeistfilms.com/films/...os/photo01.jpg

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    Re: Distribution

    Originally posted by arsaib4
    Some good news I guess; The World will be distributed by Zeitgeist Films in the U.S. The film was bought from Celluloid Dreams at the AFM market held recently. No release date scheduled yet.

    http://www.zeitgeistfilms.com/films/...os/photo01.jpg
    That is good news. I would be interested in your comments after you've seen it.
    "They must find it hard, those who have taken authority as truth, rather than truth as authority" Gerald Massey

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    Really interesting comments Howard.

    I caught this at the NYFF and I too wasn't as pleased as with his first films. I would agree entirely that the edge is lost. Somehow the social criticisms aren't as alive in this particular context. Jia is still a master in my book, but The World just didn't ever grab ahold of me the way Platform or Unknown Pleasure did. I would be very happy nonetheless to see it distributed and to see Jia and his entire body of work more widely publicized. What an important filmmaker.
    P

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    Originally posted by pmw
    Really interesting comments Howard.

    I caught this at the NYFF and I too wasn't as pleased as with his first films. I would agree entirely that the edge is lost. Somehow the social criticisms aren't as alive in this particular context. Jia is still a master in my book, but The World just didn't ever grab ahold of me the way Platform or Unknown Pleasure did. I would be very happy nonetheless to see it distributed and to see Jia and his entire body of work more widely publicized. What an important filmmaker.
    P
    Thanks very much. I agree with what you said. If nothing else, distribution may encourage people to rent his earlier films (where available).
    "They must find it hard, those who have taken authority as truth, rather than truth as authority" Gerald Massey

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    It garnered the ...
    -- Best Feature Film and Best Cinematography at the Sixth Las Palmas International Film Festival in Spain
    -- Grand Prix du Jury at the 11th Vesoul International Film Festival of Asian Cinema in France.

    If you understand Chinese, the DVD is really cheap!
    ;)
    http://us.yesasia.com/en/PrdDept.asp...c/version-all/

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    Jia Zhangke has been an influential director, indeed most independent Chinese films I've seen in recent years seem to have been influenced by his directorial style. It will be a shame if he has lost the edge that made his previous work stand out from the crowd. I will (if possible) see "The World" and obviously make my own assessment from there.

    Cheers Trev.
    The more I learn the less I know.

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    Originally posted by hengcs
    If you understand Chinese, the DVD is really cheap!
    ;)
    http://us.yesasia.com/en/PrdDept.asp...c/version-all/

    Apparently the website indicates wrongly.

    I have watched the DVD and it has IMPRINTED Chinese and English subtitles ...
    ;)

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    Originally posted by hengcs
    Apparently the website indicates wrongly.

    I have watched the DVD and it has IMPRINTED Chinese and English subtitles ...
    ;)
    So you're saying that both Chinese and English subs run at the bottom and they can't be turned off, right? Do you have the valid edition?

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    Originally posted by arsaib4
    So you're saying that both Chinese and English subs run at the bottom and they can't be turned off, right? Do you have the valid edition?

    Yes, that is what I mean ...
    Anyway, I purchased it from YesAsia, so it should be original.


    I have also watched it in San Francisco International Film Festival ... Unfortunately they have REMOVED the song (but the scene exists) ... This is puzzling ... I thought they should keep the song which is rather meaningful ... (even if they refuse to subtitle the song)


    thanks and acknowledgement to ent.sina.com.cn
    the following is dedicated to those who like one of the Mongolian folk songs (I think) in the movie ...

    see
    http://ent.sina.com.cn/m/c/2005-03-22/1707683179.html
    (you can ignore the Chinese fonts ...)

    The lyrics (loosely translated by me) are:


    Song Title: The Night of Ulan Bator

    The wind that sweeps through the wilderness
    Please do not leave so soon ...
    I use my silence to tell you ...
    I am drunk ...

    The clouds that sail to a distance ...
    Please do not leave so soon ...
    I use my run to tell you
    I won't turn back ...

    [Chorus]
    The night of Ulan Bator ...
    All is so quiet ... all is so quiet ...
    Even the wind does not know of me ... it does not know

    The night of Ulan Bator ...
    All is so quiet ... all is so quiet ...
    Even the clouds do not know of me ... they do not know
    [End of Chorus]


    To those who have wandered to a foreign land
    Where are you?
    My stomach begins to ache
    Do you know?

    The birds that fly through the firy flames
    Please do not leave
    Do you know that tonight, it has become crazy
    Not just for you ...

    (repeat Chorus 2x)
    Last edited by hengcs; 05-07-2005 at 07:19 PM.

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    Since The World will be distributed in the U.S., I'm not going to order it at this point. I was a little hesitant about your info regarding the subtitles because both Peacock and Cafe Lumiere, films you brought up in the DVD section, didn't come with English subs.

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    Originally posted by arsaib4
    Since The World will be distributed in the U.S., I'm not going to order it at this point. I was a little hesitant about your info regarding the subtitles because both Peacock and Cafe Lumiere, films you brought up in the DVD section, didn't come with English subs.

    Hmmm ... just to clarify a bit ...

    When the DVD is first out for sale by YesAsia, I will usually post based on what is indicated by YesAsia on their website. So, if the info on subtitles is erroneous, it is because YesAsia indicates them wrongly. I am not sure who provided them with the info or keyed it in ...

    By the way, I realize that I did not key in the subtitles availability here ... or did I? I have really forgotten ...
    http://www.filmwurld.com/forums/show...&threadid=1238

    However, the more important point is, to be responsible, I always verify and update you people with the "actual" info after I have received the DVD and watched it. I will also send YesAsia an email to inform them of the error so that other consumers will not buy them by mistakes.
    ;)

    That was why after I have received and watched the DVD (usually about 2 to 3 weeks), I quickly post and inform you people that

    (i) "Peacock" has no English subtitles although YesAsia originally indicated there is.
    (ii) "The World" has burnt in English subtitles although YesAsia indicated Chinese subtitles only.
    (Anyway, after I bought the DVD, a reviewer on YesAsia website informed that some scenes have been edited ... so, I am VERY UPSET ... sigh ... I am upset because I thought the script was approved by the authority.)
    (iii) I did NOT purchase "Cafe Lumiere". So, I am not sure.


    PS: If you have bought those DVDs due to an error (of subtitles indication) by YesAsia, I think you can return them (even if the shrinkwrap is removed). Well, how will one know there is an error in subtitles if they do not remove the wrap?

    I believe they will be understanding. Moreover, they are the ones that have provided the erroneous info.
    Last edited by hengcs; 05-08-2005 at 08:15 AM.

  15. #15
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    I appreciate this, hengcs. Yesasia is certainly not the most trustworthy site when it comes to that kind of info. I like them because of their prices. I usually do confirm or wait for my copy to arrive to post any info regarding subtitles etc. I wasn't so disappointed with Peacock, but I really wanted to see the Hou film which still doesn't have any distribution deal.

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