Film - Feature | February 7 | 2:30 p.m. | Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
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 theyre left behind. More inclined toward a slow stroll sideways than a great leap forward, the small-time, undermotivated pickpocket Xiao Wu (Wang Hongwei) isnt keeping up as even dirt-poor Fenyang starts striving for economic success. Ramshackle shops are being demolished for modern structures; the citys 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 Jias career but also a new wave of Chinese film.