Useless, the new documentary by Jia Zhangke, avoids grand statements about fashion or the apparel industry or the rapid changes that are transforming Chinese life, though it is decidedly about all of these things. Clocking in at under 90 minutes, and deploying no voiceover, Useless is actually a deceptively modest piece of work—some may call it “minor”—but its modesty should not be taken for lack of ambition or for a failure on Jia’s part to grapple with his film’s subjects. Instead, Jia has crafted something beautiful, expansive, and deeply philosophical but has left it to his viewers to make their own connections—and to make up their own minds. Useless is really about the idea of clothing—what it means to each of us as individuals, where it comes from, and how that relates to our conceptions of identity and work—though Jia doesn’t have the hubris to make these themes overt or impose his attitude towards these subjects on his audience.
Click here to read Chris Wisniewski’s review of Jia Zhangke’s Useless,