Daily Archives: July 29, 2005

The World in a Beijing Theme Park

From the Chicago Reader (July 29, 2005). — J.R.

The World

**** (Masterpiece)

Directed and Written by Jia Zhang-ke

With Zhao Tao, Chen Taishen, Jing Jue, Jiang Zhongwei, Huang Yiqun, Wang Hongwei, Liang Jingdong, Ji Shuai, and Alla Chtcherbakova

The title of Jia Zhang-ke’s 2004 masterpiece, The World — a film that’s hilarious and upsetting, epic and dystopian — is an ironic pun and a metaphor. It’s also the name of the real theme park outside Beijing where most of the action is set and practically all its characters work. “See the world without ever leaving Beijing” is one slogan for the 115-acre park, where a monorail circles scaled-down replicas of the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal, London Bridge, Saint Mark’s Square, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Pyramids, and even a Lower Manhattan complete with the Twin Towers. Extravagant kitsch like this may offer momentary escape from the everyday, but Jia is interested in showing the everyday activities needed to hold this kitsch in place as well as the alienation in this displaced world — and therefore in the world in general, including the one we know.

Jia, with his choreographed wide-screen long takes in long shot, may be the best cinematic composer of figures in landscapes since Michelangelo Antonioni.… Read more »

The Dukes Of Hazzard

As soon as it became clear that this remake has nothing to do with real Georgia moonshiners and everything to do with car chases, smashups, and explosions, I could sit back and enjoy it as good, stupid funa celebration of lawlessness in a crooked county, with Burt Reynolds figuring (a little uncomfortably) as the top villain. Cousins Bo (Seann William Scott), Luke (Johnny Knoxville), and Daisy (Jessica Simpson) outwit and outdrive the cops while helping Uncle Jesse (Willie Nelson) keep his farm. With Joe Don Baker and Lynda Carter. Chicago native Jay Chandrasekhar directed the script by John O’Brien. PG-13, 106 min. (JR)… Read more »

Writing the Wrecord

In my review of Karen Severns and Koichi Mori’s Magnificent Obsession: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Buildings and Legacy in Japan [July 22] I said that Arata Endo was the only person with whom Wright ever agreed to share architectural credit, information I got from the documentary. But my brother Alvin Rosenbaum, author of the 1993 book Usonia: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Design for America, tells me that Wright shared credit with at least one other person, Aaron Green, “on their joint San Francisco office,” adding that “their major collaboration, the Marin County Courthouse, was finished after Wright’s death.”

Jonathan Rosenbaum … Read more »

The World

From the Chicago Reader (July 29, 2005). — J.R.

Suggesting at different moments a backstage musical, a failed love story, a surreal comedy, and even a cartoon fantasy, this beautiful, corrosive, visionary masterpiece by Jia Zhang-ke (2004) is a frighteningly persuasive account of the current state of the planet. Set in an eerie Beijing theme park — a kind of Chinese Las Vegas, with scaled-down duplicates of the most famous global landmarks — it follows a bunch of workers as they labor, carouse, couple, and uncouple, but it’s really about propping up extravagant illusions through alienated labor. Jia, only 35, is the most talented director, and one of the most respected, in mainland China — though this film is his first to get an official release there. In Mandarin and Shanxi dialect with subtitles. 139 min. (I will introduce the 4:20 PM Saturday screening and lead a discussion afterward.) . Music Box

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