For Fun

The Beijing Trilogy begins with a loving but unsentimental tribute to traditions and people forced into obsolescence. Required to retire from his job as a utility man at a Peking Opera theater, Old Han (Huang Zongluo) is at loose ends, wandering the backstreets of Beijing looking for something to correct. When he comes upon a group of amateur musicians in a public park, this inveterate meddler finds an outlet for his autocratic tendencies. Working with a mostly nonprofessional cast and shooting in a naturalistic, precisely observed style, Ning intersperses interludes of quiet with eruptions of social chaos; her humanist approach recalls neorealism—imagine Umberto D with a fulfilling hobby. For Fun beautifully evokes both specific realities and larger human needs: the need to be useful, and the need for art.
—Juliet Clark

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