Chinese director Jia Zhang-Ke follows up his 2000 film Platform with this leisurely, droll study of aimless youth in contemporary China.
Set in a provincial northern town near the Mongolian border, its main characters are a couple of unemployed, chain-smoking teenagers who fancy themselves as tough guys and live on a cultural diet of bootlegged Hollywood films, Chinese pop music and karaoke videos. The studiously cool Xiao Ji (Wu Qiong) makes a play for dancer-cum-model Qiao Qiao (Zhao Tao), despite her gangster boyfriend, while Bin Bin (Zhao Wei-Wei) conducts a romance with a sombre schoolgirl.
Skillfully shot on digital video, Unknown Pleasures dovetails its loose narrative with recent real-life events, such as China's successful Olympic bid, the construction of a new highway and an act of homegrown terrorism. Capitalism here comes at a heavy spiritual cost: these young rebels may search for pleasure, yet to their generation satisfaction remains elusive.