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Among the most essential filmmakers of the past several decades, Jia Zhangke launched his career with this, his 1997 debut (featured in New Directors/New Films in 1999) about a pickpocket struggling to keep up with the current of China’s transformation into an economic powerhouse. Abandoned by his friends and associates and stymied by the terrain shifting beneath him, the titular and somewhat nihilistic thief stumbles upon a chance at love—or at least a human connection—and finds himself confronted with the question: is this any way to live? Even in this early work, Jia’s unsurpassed attentiveness to the texture of quotidian life amid a society in flux is powerfully in evidence, presaging his current status as cinema’s great portraitist of the latter-day Chinese behemoth. Restored by The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project and Cineteca di Bologna at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory in collaboration with Jia Zhangke and in association with MK2. Restoration funding provided by the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation.
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