Imported 35mm Print
Wang Hongwei, Hao Hongjian, Zu Baitao, Ma Jinrei,
Fresh from the Beijing Film Academy in 1997, Jia turned to the dirt streets of his hometown Fenyang for his feature debut, a Bresson-in-the-boondocks portrait of China in economic transition and those who can only watch as they’re left behind. More inclined toward a slow stroll sideways than a great leap forward, the small-time, undermotivated pickpocket Xiao Wu (Wang Hongwei) isn’t keeping up as even dirt-poor Fenyang starts striving for economic success. Ramshackle shops are being demolished for modern structures; the city’s cracking down on street criminals like himself; the local bar girl seems unattainable, and even his old prison buddy has become a “model entrepreneur” (defined, evidently, as selling bootleg cigarettes in large volume, and/or pimping women). An eye-on-the-ground paean to the unambitious and the non-ruthless, to sparrows in a new world of hawks, Xiao Wu launched not only Jia’s career but also a new wave of Chinese film.