Shijie (The World) (2005) directed by Zhang Ke Jia
Great concept, we are introduced to the lives of two country Chinese who have come to the allure of the city, and end up working at the World Park. An Epcot center style park that holds several giant sized replica's of the worlds biggest monuments. In one scene theres a conversation in front of the pryamids, in another lunch in the Eiffel Tower, chit chat in front of Big Ben, etc. Our heroin may have to dress like a Giesha one day, a Bollywood star, or Pilgrim the next. Her boyfreind is a security guard, who gets a taste of the big life, when he gets involved with some small time criminals. In particular a woman who runs a sweat shop that produces knock offs of western clothes and purses, etc. It's got all the raw makings for being a visually beautiful and meaningful film about modern Globalization; all the multiplying images getting further and further away from the real thing. "See the world, without ever leaving Biejing".
Unfortunately thats about as far as the story goes. Theres some simpering relationship and family drama, that never really devolops, and is all but aborted by the finale. The dues ex machina for the modern day serious dramatic film is the murder suicide. If you dont know how to wrap up your characters, just have something really terrible happen, and under cover of the fog like gravitas which ensues you can avoid having to have meant anything at all, cus wasnt it sad? Ive heard some argue that maybe they didnt know the oven was on, cus they were so backwards, and they just coudnt adjust adapt to modern life, which I think is actually a worse, even more pedantic ending, than she killed him cus he had eyes for another; no one can keep a promise anymore, traditional culture where have you gone, blah blah blah.
The ocassional animated sequences and dance numbers I enjoyed, as I did the setting, costumes, and photography, it's the rest thats dissapointing. If you think the premise sounds interesting, you may say it's interesting, but if your waiting for something else or more to happen, there's nothing much there. It's a hollow earth, where the characters and their lives are just as empty as the fake monuments around them, that is if you beleive like so many god awful neo-realist films seem to, that human biengs are only to be measured by their external attributes, their jobs, class position, clothing, and costumes. "The World" is a series of empty gestures, and artificial backdrops, designed for tourists not natives. But envisioning the natives as only alienated, only exploited, and finally only tragic, seems just as cookie cutter an answer the problems of the modern world, as seeing them as happy characters in "It's A Small World". I feel like this movie just went to the opposite extreme of it's arguement, ignoring any of the subtleties that might have enriched it and the rest of us.