Blind with despair after losing his dog, girlfriend, and will to live, young Beijing worker San Bao (Duan Bowen) chows down on glass, a masochistic impulse that robs him of the ability to speak. It is a clumsy, bizarre plot mechanism, but it succeeds as a metaphor for the powerlessness felt by China’s working class. Beijing Flickers, a fascinating film written and directed by noted cinematic provocateur Zhang Yuan (East Palace, West Palace), depicts the megalopolis as a land of crippling depression that gives birth to a peculiar poetry of detachment. San Bao’s silence liberates him, and he falls in with a cluster of young outcasts, including a punk lounge singer, a plastic-surgery enthusiast, and a rape survivor. They wander through parking structures, alleyways, and underpasses, pondering the indignities of being poor and powerless in a city where class is everything. Before film’s end, most will suffer abuse or humiliation at the hands of modern Beijing’s white-collar dynasty, yet their spirits will remain intact. The subtle script, unguarded performances, and general air of morbidity evoke Harold and Maude, remarkable in a country where disaffection can be considered an act of rebellion.