This remarkable debut by Chinese artist Liu Jian is a nightmarish, punk-style animation about corruption, discrimination, and disaffected youth in modern-day China. Set during the 2008 financial crisis, the story takes place in a sombre city where many factories have been forced to close their doors.
Zhang is one of many who loses his job despite having a college degree. One day, he is accused of stealing and gets beat up by a supermarket security guard. Zhang and his friend conspire to get compensation from the store’s owner who happens to be one of the wealthiest businessmen in town.
A chain of events gets the two friends entangled in a complicated conspiracy between the store owner’s competitors and the police. The battle over power and money culminates in a brilliant and unexpected showdown at a teahouse. Both serious and humourous, elegant and grotesque, Liu’s social satire highlights the absurdities in the stereotypical Chinese villager’s dream to move to a big city, find a good job, and fit into urban society
Liu Jian’s visually striking and expressive style is influenced by his background in gaudy and conceptual art. Gaudy art emerged in China in the 1990s as a response to contemporary kitsch and commercial manipulation of aesthetics. Gaudy artists are known for using vulgarity and ugliness to break apart artificial role models, pretentious classisms, and conformity in society. Also characterized as being sarcastic and skeptical of the superficial value system, gaudy art is ultimately a criticism of the cheapening of the human experience and the pursuit of happiness.
– Heather Keung