PRINT May 2009


Jia Zhang-ke’s 24 City

BABIES DEAD FROM MELAMINE in their milk, Rem Koolhaas’s Beijing hotel up in flames, earthquake victims protesting lax construction standards, workers rioting as the tiger economy tanks: Chinese officials may have pulled off the vast, falsifying spectacle of last year’s Olympics, but the corruption and sheer haplessness of their regime now leaves the country uneasy and teetering. Jia Zhang-ke, chronicler and bard of the new China with his densely poetic films about the dislocation and anxiety caused by Deng Xiaoping’s market “reforms,” had already captured the arrogating power of spectacle in a country intent on erecting a pristine facsimile of late civilization over the drowned villages, polluted skies, and broken hopes of its populace. In Jia’s The World (2004), the hermetic artifice of a gleaming global village, pared down to its touristic high points to create a Baudrillardian theme

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