Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Paint dries. You watch it. And you don't die of boredom.

Zhang Ke Jia's film technique is to stick a camera on a tripod and let his actors wander about in front of it. Occasionally, he allows himself the luxury of a slow pan.

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Two-and-a-half hours of provincial Chinese young people sitting around smoking is a toughie for the audience. Being China and covering the late Seventies/early Eighties, there is a fascination about how they behave and what they think. There are communal meetings, in which local issues are discussed, and older people talk Mao-speak. The kids want to look fashionable and dance to Western-style music. Sex doesn't come into it. Boys and girls are shy with each other. Well, boys are. The girls are more forthright.

They are supposed to be members of an amateur theatre group, but you don't see much of this. There are propaganda shows, in which a singer praises the government, but that's about it. Like a soap opera, you begin to understand the characters and warm to them. When a friend returns from "the outside world" with a radio cassette player, they think this the ultimate of cool.

As a movie, it takes a long time going nowhere. You sit through the embarrassed silences and girls dancing on the back of a lorry, because you care about them now. You feel part of their lives, which, of course, you are not. Jia Zhang-Ke's style has an honesty that may be limited, but is admirable, too. He is the opposite of flamboyant, without being dull.

The 15-certificate must be because everyone smokes like a chimney.

Reviewed on: 05 Sep 2002
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A group of young people in Shanxi Province, China, hang about in the early Eighties.
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Director: Jia Zhang-Ke

Writer: Jia Zhang-Ke

Starring: Wang Hong Wei, Zhao Tao, Liang Jing Dong, Yang Tian Yi , Wang Bo

Year: 2000

Runtime: 155 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: China

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