As a key figure in the so-called “Sixth Generation” directors in China, Wang Xiaoshuai has attracted considerable attention in academics, both in China and in the West. His first “legal” film — a film that is officially authorized by the state-controlled filmmaking system in China — So Close to Paradise (Biandan guniang, 1996) deserves special attention. As a transitional film from the “underground” to “in-system” production, this film represents a salient transition in Wang’s filmmaking when he was facing the imperatives of art, state censorship, and commercialization. In this sense, it is also a locale where investigations of the problematics of Chinese film at the turn of the 21st Century can be fruitfully conducted. This essay addresses the issue of Wang's transition by examining So Close to Paradise. Specifically, it focuses on how social critiques and sentimentalism are intricately interwoven in this film, and thus how the film's cultural agency is embedded in its popular appeal. By doing so, I intend to exhibit how the tension among the imperatives of aesthetics, politics, and commercialism shapes Wang's production, and how this film is symptomatic of the filmmaking in postsocialist China.