The faux global amusements of Epcot Center have nothing on the kitsch at the heart of The World, a glorious achievement from Jia Zhangke, the exciting Chinese director of Platform and Unknown Pleasures. Beijing’s World Park, a jumble of international landmarks in scaled-down replica (including the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal, and the Twin Towers, standing pitifully not-so-tall), claims to offer global travel without the hassle (or opportunity) of leaving home. But to the young employees whose lives are defined by its borders — including a lonely Russian dancer and a Chinese performer in love with a security guard — it’s an insulated biosphere, a cage; cell phone text messaging is the closest these modern wanderers come to actually wandering.
Jia communicates all this potential and constriction in a film of wonderful looseness and innovation. Set free to film fakes, the director is the real thing.