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Walking on the Wild Side
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Directed by Han Jie

In a small dusty town in Shanxi Province, three friends, Xiping, Er Bao and Liuliu, spend most of their time just hanging around. They blow off their energy by fighting, drinking, racing cars and chasing girls, but their adolescent antics are thrown into turmoil when they almost beat a boy to death during a fight at school. They resolve to leave town and in doing so embark upon a journey of bankruptcy, betrayal and the loss of a friend.

In many ways, Walking on the Wild Side (Lai Xiao Zi) is reminiscent of Hou Hsiao-hsien's All the Youthful Days, though is arguably a superior picture on account of its fast pace and wild characters.

Loosely based on the lives of his middle school classmates, Lai Xiao Zi is director Han Jie's first full-length feature; it also benefits from the input of producer (and Han's fellow townsman) Jia Zhangke.

Jia is renowned for making films that explore the relationship between personal lives and social change in contemporary China, and his influence becomes more apparent through the course of the film. In the small coal-mining town where the boys are from, some locals have made their fortunes by opening mines. This scenario provides a backdrop for a sympathetic study of how a younger generation's emotional needs are being ignored by an older generation who are busy pursuing wealth and material gain.

(That's Beijing by Alice Wang May 12, 2007)

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