In the 1980s in Fenyang, a government propaganda theatre troupe has to adapt to the new political and cultural practices. Shot on the eve of the 21st century, the film focuses on another turning point – the period when Chinese history is gradually shifting from Maoist Communism to nascent capitalism. Assuming a false innocence, the story takes simple passing romances as its narrative threads toweave a complex and forthright portrait of China that captures both what is irreversibly changing and what stays persistently the same… and remains eminently Chinese.
For this second collaboration between Jia and Yu, priority is given to fixed frames and slow pans, creating a highly pictorial aesthetic. The realism of the lighting (light sources are often part of the image) brings out the magnificent presence of ordinary bodies.