The Eiffel Tower looks out over the Arc de Triomphe, which is not so very far from the Taj Mahal, which is itself just a short monorail ride away from the twin towers of the World Trade Center, which are still standing. Welcome to China’s World Park, where, as a perky female voice intones over a loudspeaker, you can “see the world without ever leaving Beijing.” Into this strange setting comes a young dancer (the excellent Zhao Tao), who along with her twentysomething co-workers hail from rural Chinese provinces that have remained trapped in a kind of time warp as China has rapidly modernized its urban centers. Now they have made it to the big city only to find happiness ever more elusive. This remarkable fourth feature by Jia Zhangke (Platform, Still Life) was his first official production after a decade of working clandestinely in China’s independent film scene. It is also his most visually stunning, taking full advantage of his setting’s absurd contours to pan us from the Leaning Tower of Pisa to London Bridge in one fell swoop. And there are Bollywood-style musical numbers to boot!

“Sly, poetic, and pulsing with life, this funny, touching work confirms, yet again, that Jia is one of the new millennium's most inventive cinematic talents.” —NYFF42 program note