Search DVDBeaver

S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

(aka "Shijie" or "World")

 

directed by Jia Zhang Ke
China 2004

 

In a serendipitous event, The Economist ran a special on China the global economy the same week that I watched Jia Zhang-Ke's The World. As a westerner and particularly as an American, I tend to think of globalization the way Thomas Friedman leads me to think, i.e., on the way it will affect my life and the lives of other middle-class westerners. Our concerns are, to put them succinctly, "will our jobs be exported overseas, to someone in Asia making a small percentage of what we make?" "How will rampant globalization continue to change the American economy?"

In contrast to my concerns, The World is an examination of the effects of globalization on the Chinese working class. The World may be a beautiful film, but the world it paints is not a pretty picture. The general impression I got was that Jia sees the global economy turning the Chinese working class into a global lumpenproletariat. Chinese society is being torn from its roots with millions of citizens being forced, through economic circumstances, to leave their provincial hometowns and relocate in megalopolises like Beijing in order to find jobs. Herein lies the principal irony in a film full of ironies. The Chinese government, possibly the most successful Marxist regime in history, is subjecting its citizens to the same market forces of which Marx was so critical in market economies. Now, these days, China is about as Marxist, in an economic sense, as Switzerland, but all signs point to the fact they pay lip service to the Marxist-Leninist "brand", in spite of economic reality. Given the amount of criticism it makes against this new reality, it's remarkable that Jia was able to make this film under the (presumably) ever-watchful eye of the Chinese government.

Tao (Tao Zhao) is a young woman who works at an improbable theme park in the Beijing suburbs called The Beijing World Park. That this place actually exists is bizarre enough, but to concoct such a desperate yet engaging largely drama within its confines is extraordinary. The Beijing World Park, which, according to a website I found, covers roughly 117 acres of land 16 kilometers from Beijing proper, contains replicas at roughly 1/3 scale, of all the world's great buildings, from the Taj Mahal and the great pyramids to Big Ben and the entire New York City skyline. In other words, an interesting visual backdrop which creates a startling juxtaposition to the humdrum, barely-scraping-by existence of Tao and her boyfriend Taisheng (Taisheng Chen), who works along side his little brother as a security guard for the park. Their lives are the stuff of melodrama - Taisheng wants sex but not necessarily commitment, while Tao is holding out for commitment before sex enters the relationship. Taisheng drifts into a sexual relationship with an older woman whose own husband emigrated to France (the Belleville section of Paris, specifically) a decade before, and, for all she knows, may have died there.

Tao's job is two-fold - by day she dresses up in the local costume of whatever "country" she's working in that day and walks around or participates in localized dance routines or ostensibly acts as a tour guide. I say 'ostensibly', since we rarely see any of the employees working; they seem to spend most of their time hanging out on the observation deck of the "Eiffel Tower". By night Tao, again dressed in costume, participates as a quasi-showgirl in a series of massive, elaborately staged, and beautifully photographed shows attended by tourists. These shows, which are staged and shot very differently from the rest of the film, form a sort of punctuation or demarcation point in the structure of the film, which itself is quite minimally plotted.
 


In many ways the film is about as subtle as repeated hammer blows to the head - one construction worker from the provinces, who is helping build one of the numerous high-rise apartment complexes that house the massive influx of other provincial workers, dies in a construction accident. His family comes en masse to retrieve the body, presamably their first, and for the older ones, last visit to Beijing. In another subplot, Tao befriends Anna, an Russian immigrant who gets a job in the park, only to leave for the more more lucrative life of a prostitute. The explanation for her need for money is that she wants to visit her sister, who has immigrated to Mongolia. Tao and Anna form possibly the closest relationship in the film, despite the fact neither can understand the other's native language.

One is also struck by the amount of modern technology on display in this film. Everyone has a cellphone, and instant messaging is integral to not only the look and feel of the film, but to the plot as well. Given that the GDP per capita of China is less than 15% of that of the United States, the prevalence of technology considered relatively advanced in this country implies a tremendous disparity in the spending culture between the two countries, and a uncomfortable one for the Chinese.

In the end, working on such a massive canvas almost proves too much for Jia, who, for all the wonderful set pieces and fully-realized ideas in the film, cannot by the end keep the whole thing together. The ending itself feels perfunctory, and the lazy, casual pacing of the first 90-120 minutes is replaced towards the end by a flurry of plot developments for which we are not given time to assimilate by film's end. Ultimately, I can only assume that Jia accomplished less than he set out for, but it's heartening that a director from the People's Republic has both the ambition and the support to even try to realize such lofty aims in a gritty, contemporary setting.

Excerpt from DVDBeaver-ite Jim Bach's review site located HERE

Posters

Theatrical Release: September 4th, 2004 - Venice Film Festival

Reviews       More Reviews      DVD Reviews

Comparison: 

Zeitgeist - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Masters of Cinema - Region FREE - Blu-ray

Big thanks to Adam Lemke for the Review!

Zeitgeist - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT vs. Masters of Cinema - Region FREE - Blu-ray RIGHT

DVD Box Cover

Distribution

Zeitgeist

Region 1 - NTSC

Masters of Cinema - Spine # 12

Region FREE - Blu-ray

Runtime 2.19.34 2:19:21.541
Video

2.35:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 6.68 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 47,412,913,568 bytes

Feature: 32,755,666,944 bytes

Video Bitrate: 27.964 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate DVD

Bitrate Blu-ray

Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 - Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio Chinese 1711 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1711 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps /
16-bit)
Subtitles English, none English, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Zeitgeist

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 2.35:1

Edition Details:
• Original theatrical trailer
• Video interview with film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum
• On-set photo gallery
• Production notes by director Jia Zhangke
• Character sketches and an essay on the real World Park

DVD Release Date: Feb. 14th, 2006
Clear Keep Case

Chapters 22

Release Information:
Studio: Eureka - Masters of Cinema

 

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 47,412,913,568 bytes

Feature: 32,755,666,944 bytes

Video Bitrate: 27.964 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Edition Details:
• Tony Rayns on THE WORLD: a new and exclusive 21-minute video introduction to the film by scholar and critic Tony Rayns
• Made in China: a 68-minute documentary on the making of The World
• The World According to Jia Zhangke: a 25-minute video interview with the director
• A lengthy booklet containing a new essay about the film by Tony Rayns; an essay by Jia Zhangke; and a special dossier-afterword with further commentary on certain elements of the film and its ending

Blu-ray Release Date: August 30th, 2010
Standard Blu-ray Case

Chapters 18

 

Comments

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: (August 2010) BFI Region FREE - Blu-ray: Super choice for Masters of Cinema as this is a film experience that is greatly benefited by the move to 1080P.

Described on the box as: "The fourth feature by internationally acclaimed auteur Jia Zhangke was also his breakout success, an epic with a canvas as vast, and intimate, as its title suggests: a state-of-the-modern-world address, and a look at the insular world of a troupe of Chinese stage-performers dreaming of freedom…
Zhao Tao, Jia’s muse, is one of these troupers. For Tao and the larger ensemble of pageant performers at Beijing’s real-life World Park (a sprawling hyper-pastiche of global landmarks — “famous sites from five continents”), love is respite from work, work is respite from love, and the line that extends from the past to the future loses all definition beyond the present.

A testament to the wisdom of this young filmmaker who arrived in the late 1990s with Xiao Wu and, in 2000, Platform (regarded by many to be the greatest film of the 2000s), Shijie / The World provides an image of globalisation as a paradox: at once a phenomenon rooted in social control, and a network that allows connection across individual people and populations. The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present both Jia Zhangke and his film The World to Blu-ray for the first time ever."

Easy to see the new format image is a significant jump in sharpness, tightening of colors, shadow detail, contrast etc. Audio - not an especially huge part of the film is also improved with a 2.0 channel lossless rendering at 1700 Kbps - in the original Mandarin language. There are excellent English subtitles available and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.

Extras are wonderful as well with 21-minutes by scholar and critic Tony Rayns on THE WORLD. A 68-minute 'Making of...' documentary entitled Made in China. Holding a lot of my attention was The World According to Jia Zhangke: a 25-minute video interview with the director and lastly another lengthy booklet containing a new essay about the film by Tony Rayns; an essay by Jia Zhangke; and a special dossier-after-word with further commentary on certain elements of the film and its ending.

The World is a very special film and I can now say that it needs to be seen on Blu-ray. It might even deserve inclusion on THIS list. Masters of Cinema - with BD spine # 12 - come through again! Kudos to Mr. Wrigley and the gang... our highest recommendation!

 Gary W. Tooze

****

ON THE ZEITGEIST DVD: The transfer – Sourced from hi-def elements, this is a fantastic looking DVD. On both my HD TV, and computer, the image was sharp and free of any flaws. Any instances of light bleeding is a result of the film having been shot on Digital first and then transferred to film, and is not the fault of Zeitgeist’s transfer. Considering it was done on digital, the film has some wonderful deep focus, and I’m beginning to grow a deeper appreciation for the cinematic potentials of the digital medium.  out of

The extras – The advertised interview with Jonathan Rosenbaum is actually the teaser trailer that was on the Internet and clocks in at a disappointing 1 minute 21 seconds. His excellent review for the Chicago Reader can be found online HERE.
Also included, which actually turned out to be a helpful tool when exploring the film for the first time, is an insert that lists the names and relations of the numerous characters of the film. There are some brief remarks from director Jia on various themes in the film,, and a selection of behind the scenes photos. Overall, the extras are lacking and left me wanting way more.
out of

The film – An absolute masterpiece! Don’t pass it up for anything. This disc will probably get more playing time than any other DVD I acquire this year. It’s a monumental work by a major filmmaker and belongs in the collection of any serious film lover.
out of .

 - Adam Lemke

 


DVD Menus

Zeitgeist - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT vs. Masters of Cinema - Region FREE - Blu-ray RIGHT
 

 

 


 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

Screen Captures

 

Zeitgeist - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Masters of Cinema - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM


Subtitle sample

 

 


Zeitgeist - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Masters of Cinema - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


Zeitgeist - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Masters of Cinema - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


Zeitgeist - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Masters of Cinema - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


Zeitgeist - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Masters of Cinema - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


Zeitgeist - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Masters of Cinema - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


  Zeitgeist - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. Masters of Cinema - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

More Blu-ray Captures


DVD Box Cover

Distribution

Zeitgeist

Region 1 - NTSC

Masters of Cinema - Spine # 12

Region FREE - Blu-ray




 

Hit Counter

 

DONATIONS Keep DVDBeaver alive:

Mail cheques, money orders, cash to:    or CLICK PayPal logo to donate!

Gary Tooze

Thank You!