Authentic, gloomy account of Chinese youth culture

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Overall rating:

Score 3


Unknown Pleasures


This concerns two unemployed 19-year-old boys living in the provincial Chinese city of Datong, their aimless, hopeless lifestyles and respective love interests. Bin Bin’s girlfriend is going off to college, while Xiao Ji is infatuated with a dancer called Qiao Qiao and pursues her regardless of her gangster boyfriend.

Reflecting the same ambiguity as the Joy Division album, Unknown Pleasures is about the unhappy lot of the young in modern China, whose new openness to capitalism and market forces hasn’t liberated them. Rather, they lead repressed, impoverished existences, taunted by a perpetual backdrop of TV, karaoke and distant, American-generated dreams of the good life.

All this is conveyed rather too well in this gruellingly downbeat movie through a series of miserably failed attempts at escape, deadpan expressions and lengthy pauses pregnant with sullen meaning. “There’s no fucking future,” remarks Bin Bin late on. Unknown Pleasures, which starts slowly before its pace slackens, offers no glimmer of suggestion to the contrary.