What do Shakespeare, James Joyce, Van Gogh, and Kurt Cobain have in common? They’re all topics for rambling conversations about art, life, and freedom at the eponymous school where an assortment of slackers happen to be enrolled. Loosely based on filmmaker Liu Jian’s (Have A Nice Day) own experiences at the Chinese Southern Academy of Arts, this consistently compelling masterwork proves that art school students are just about the same everywhere. The ensemble characters are smart and funny, and their flaws irresistibly endearing as they fumble toward their future, and their dorm-room philosophizing is voiced by a starry cast that includes Wang Hongwei, Dong Zijian, Zhou Dongyu, Jia Zhangke, and Bi Gan. This bittersweet story of youth, evoking both nostalgia and hope, comes fully alive through beautiful animation that is meticulously rendered in an old-school 2-D package.

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