THE WORLD (Jia Zhangke) Rating: NNNNN
Cinematheque couldn't have chosen a better movie to kick off its Film Now series of works by emerging directors than this masterpiece by China's genius of youthful anomie, Jia Zhangke. Sad, bleakly funny and dense with meaning, The World follows the convoluted loves and betrayals of Tao (Zhao Tao) and Taisheng (Chen Taisheng), employees of World Park, a sort of architectural zoo in suburban Beijing full of scale reproductions of famous buildings.
Jia exploits the setting's kitsch to the hilt, transforming its miniature Taj Mahals and World Trade Centers into multi-faceted metaphors for everything from the new Beijing to the human condition.
Nothing in the park is what it seems to be; everything is artificial, insubstantial and transient, from the performers' flimsy, glittering costumes to their faltering relationships. Everyone here is an expat - figuratively and literally. They're all from the provinces, all constantly dreaming of going elsewhere. But as Tao discovers, the World is a closed system, and hard to leave.
Entrancing. (March 18-20 and 24, Cinematheque Ontario)