In 2002, filmmaker Jia Zhangke released his third feature film to universal acclaim. Unknown Pleasures would barely lose the Palme d’Or to Polanksi’s The Pianist, but still won accolades from critics and ended on a few top 10 lists.
Set in the industrial Chinese city of Datong, the plot follows a trio of disillusioned adolescents who are part of the “Birth Control Generation” — that first generation of Chinese youth who are the product of the government’s one child policy. As such, loneliness and detachment from reality are dominant themes. The kids, Bin Bin, Xiao Ji and Qiao Qiao, fall in love, discuss American culture and eventually fall into a bit of crime.
Like too many films out of Asia, Unknown Pleasures has remained almost completely disregarded by Western audiences. Slow character development and long stretches where not much happens at all… such movies tend to work on the festival circuit but not with the casual fan. But that doesn’t excuse the users of Criticker! This is a hauntingly beautiful film, which captures important human moments during China’s reawakening. Seek it out.