The Biggest Chinese Restaurant in the World (2008)
West Lake Restaurant in South China’s Changsha can safely call itself the biggest Chinese restaurant in the world, with its staff of 1,000 working 5,000 tables and serving no fewer than 150 ducks per day and 200 snakes per week. The words of the restaurant’s staff and guests are used in the film to paint a picture of modern China: the proprietress, one of the city’s 20 self-made millionaires, speaks candidly about her failed marriage; a bridegroom-to-be who is celebrating at the restaurant explains the modern Chinese customs associated with the wedding party; and a waitress visits her poor parents in the countryside. Through these scenes, we gain insight into the unique combination of the ancient religious values and the new capitalist values with which China is stepping into the 21st century. What becomes very clear is that not everyone is set to benefit from the economic boom. In an approach comparable to Jia Zhang-ke’s in his portrait of a theme park called “The World,” by focusing on the microcosm of the West Lake Restaurant, this film manages to gain a perspective on the huge changes China is going through.