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Unknown Pleasures: The Films of Jia Zhangke

Friday, September 26, 2008
6:30 p.m. Useless
Jia Zhangke (China, 2007)

(Wuyong). The fashion industry provides surprisingly supple material for the second film in Jia’s “Trilogy of Artists.” Beginning in a mammoth garment factory filled with buzzing machines and breaking-down workers, the film moves to its heart, the emerging fashion designer/artist Ma Ke, whose anti-luxurious, painstakingly crafted, and literally earth-bound “Wuyong” (“Useless”) line links together memory, history, and fabric and caused a stir at the 2007 Paris Fashion Week. Ma’s work, like Liu Xiaodong’s in the first film, echoes Jia’s own themes in different forms. “It is a challenge to China’s rapid development and a kind of rebellion,” Jia notes. “It challenges the obliteration of memory, the over-exploitation of natural resources, and the speed at which all this is happening.” The film’s third section, filmed in Jia’s oft-visited Shanxi mining region, returns fashion even further to its roots, following two small-town tailors as they repair well-worn clothes that could tell a thousand stories.

—Jason Sanders

• Photographed by Yu Likwai, Jia. (80 mins, In Mandarin and Shanxi dialect with English subtitles, Color, DigiBeta PAL, From Memento Films)