World, The (China/Japan/France ; 143 min.)

directed by: Zhang Ke Jia
starring: Taisheng Chen; Zhong-wei Jiang; Jue Jing
Bruce says: "'Give us a day, we’ll show you the world,' is the slogan of The World, a Beijing theme park where replicas of world famous monuments sit side-by-side usually downscaled to give consistency to the overall ambiance of the park. For example, the Eiffel Tower is one third the size of the original. As the workers roam the park we see the Arc de Triomphe, Big Ben, San Marco, the World Trade Center plus most of landmark Manhattan, Stonehenge, the Vatican, the leaning tower of Pisa, the Taj Mahal and Notre Dame.

"Tao (Zhao Tao) is an exotic dancer who is comfortable in attire from many countries. One day she is dancing in front of the Taj Mahal in a sari and the next she is in a period piece ball gownworthy of a French couturier. Her boyfriend Taisheng (Chen Taisheng) is a security guard for the park. Everyday they rendezvous for lunch on the observation deck of the Eiffel Tour. Taisheng’s brother and his girlfriend are usually there, too.

"Most of the workers seem to be from rural areas with the exception of some Russian girls who have come to join the dancers. All of them have come to The World to seek fortune and have careers. The story branches out as we get meet other members of The World family tree. Each vignette has only some relevance to the rest of the story. One guard is caught stealing, one construction worker falls to his death, one of the Russian girls turns to prostitution and another guard is dealing in drugs. Sadly, it appears that the likelihood of fame and fortune is slim. On the brighter side one girl gets promoted and another, married.

"To Taisheng's regret, Tao and Taisheng are not having sex. When Taisheng meets the sister of a friend he develops a sexual relationship with her while she waits for a visa to join her husband in America. Tao meanwhile is invited to a party where a rich jewelry merchant invites her for a fling in Hong Kong. She realizes that prostitution is the only alternative to her current life. When Taisheng and Tao confront each other near the end of the film, the consequences are devastating.

"Filmed beautifully, Jia Zhangke has created a sense of space - expansive visually and emotionally claustrophobic. The tales of The World are reminiscent of many films about Hollywood and New York, magnetically attracting youth with promises of glamour and riches that for most are unattainable. Unfortunately, these young men and women are a step up from working at MacDonald’s. In spite of all the hopes and dreams, they come to realize The World is not the land of golden opportunity. Perhaps life in China is not as different from ours as we once thought.

"Jia Zhangke uses anime for retrieving cell phone messages. In THE WORLD, a cell phone messaging is often as exciting as meeting someone in person. The anime certainly speaks volumes about how detached and alienated humans around the world are becoming. Buildings and monuments are easily replicated these days; let’s hope that the day when technology replaces human emotion is far, far behind. 3.5 cats"

The film was screened at the 2004 New York Film Festival.

Michael says: "Zhang Ke Jia’s THE WORLD is a sometimes fascinating, sometimes poignant, sometimes frustrating film focusing on the impact of globalization in the already complicated society in Beijing and the surrounding villages. Tao works at a huge theme park in Beijing, where all of the famous landmarks of the world (The Taj Mahal, Eifel Tower, Twin Towers, Leaning Tower of Pisa) are reproduced, albeit in a smaller form) for people to enjoy. She performs in big stage numbers in traditional costumes from around the world, dancing and presenting different cultures to the audience. Her boyfriend Taisheng works as a security guard. Their lives revolve around their work, and their desire to leave Beijing. 'See the world without leaving Beijing!' the billboards advertising The World proudly cry out. Apparently it’s terribly difficult to obtain the appropriate the proper paperwork to actually leave Beijing. Add to that the dichotomy of the city dwellers and the country folk in China, and Zhang Ke Jia has built a fascinating and very human look at urbanization and globalization.

"The problem is the film is 40 minutes too long. The storylines meander, and nonsensical animated sequences are introduced, often (but not always) when characters are using their cell phones to text message each other. There was one beautiful subplot involving Tao and Anna, a Russian woman working at The World. The two form a strong friendship despite the fact that neither speaks the other’s language. Anna successfully escapes Beijing, but the price she pays is very high.

"If there had been more moments like the ones Tao and Anna shared, THE WORLD would have been a more successful film. Still, the imagery is haunting and cinematic, and Zhang Ke Jia is a filmmaker to notice. 3 cats"