A 17th-century folk tale about four thieves trying to survive in a corrupt world during the Song Dynasty (10th-13th century) is the unusual source material for this blinding debut. The timeless sources that director Ma Lanhua mines also comprise French comedy, Chinese opera and contemporary (performance) art. Ma also utilises cinema's history, particularly the early, silent era with title cards, colours reminiscent of hand-coloured films and special effects from the arsenal of film pioneer Georges Meliès.
The carefree crew's villainy is shot with mainly static framing and a background of scenery conjured up with simple, creative means at desolate building sites, factories and shunting yards. An apocalyptic no man's land aligned with this total performance's punk energy, where the trivial story serves as a vehicle for a playful, original form of cinema combining art forms, eras and cultures into a captivating visual experience.