Wednesday, September 10, 2008

TIFF 2008 reviews: Plastic City

Ouch. Another stinker. Plastic City started off okay, it’s a Hong Kong film starring Anthony Wong set among criminal-minded Chinese expats in Sao Paolo, and for a while it seemed like a topical contemporary gangster thriller in the making, ie: it’s no golden age classic but at least Noodle Cheng isn’t in it, and it deals somewhat with the scourge of piracy as a criminal enterprise. Then about halfway into the movie, the wheels come off the wagon in a big way. The supersaturated colour scheme starts taking on a bit of an “anime bordering on Beatty’s Dick Tracy” primary palette. The plot, already a bit shaky, topples over into the realm of the nonsensical—no two consecutive scenes appear to be following any similar plot strands. The limitations of digital projection make themselves clear: not only is the image visibly grainy, the subtitles don’t switch off during the few bits of English dialogue which, it should be pointed out, is invariably completely different from the words along the bottom of the screen, and I started to wonder if we were actually watching a DVD being projected. Finally, from out of absolutely nowhere, there’s a huge gang fight that seems to be set in an apocalyptic wasteland for no readily discernable reason and the Urotskudôji colour scheme really goes into overdrive. One character starts calling out for “Tetsuo” (by the way, I didn’t even know there was a Tetsuo in the flick so far) and I fought the urge to start an Akira chant (“Tet-suuuu-ooooo!!!!”). By the time the dead Amazonian native shaman popped up, I realized I was trapped in a reasonable facsimile of Oliver Stone’s id, and all I could really do was wait it out.

Director Yu Lik-Wai is apparently mainly a cinematographer, though looking over his filmography I’ve seen none of the films he’s shot. This movie is exhibit A in why not a lot of DPs make the move to the director’s chair. (*1/2)

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