Thursday, 1 November 2007

The Man Behind the Courtyard House (2011)

Chinese title: 守望者:罪恶迷途.

This film reminds me of NatGeo's Air Crash Investigation.

What I learnt from the program is that modern air planes are very safe. For example, a plane can still fly when it loses 1 or all of its engines. Or that it completely runs out of fuel. In fact, this scenario had occurred, and the pilots were able to land the plane with minimum casualties.

What usually brought about the crash is the result of a series of unforeseen, accidental events; some are technical, some are man-made. For example, the pilots take bad advice from ground control cruise after some technical malfunction, and this led to their eventual crash. This was an actual example of a crash.

This is what happens in the story, a series of unforeseen events occur, bad advice is given, and our main character takes those advice and is a step closer to the tragic end of his mass murder.

The story is told in increasingly regressive flashbacks. I.e. the story starts with the homicide, then previous flashbacks, one early than another are eventually unfolded.

This is like the air crash investigation. The air crash investigator arrives at the scene of the tragedy, (s)he wonders what happens by working backwards to an earlier and earlier times to piece together the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle. The audience is shown how in each successively earlier flashbacks, a decision was made by taking bad advice from other people, the main character is taking closer to his decision step by step until the final massacre of the whole family.

It also shows how in each of this flashback episode that how a totally innocent, or trivial decision would alter the course of events, and lead to a very different conclusion.

The Man Behind the Courtyard House (2011)A popular saying goes something like this, "To a handyman, all problems could be fixed with a hammer" (Ok, there may not an EXACT saying like this. But something along this line). Our central character in this movie may have taken this expression to heart. When he nails somebody, he puts a nail into their scalp with a hammer.

Here's a riddle. You enter a living room, you see a broken glass, and some water on the floor. Lies next to the puddle of water is Jane. Jane is dead. What happens?

Give up? Well, Jane is a fish. Don't know what I'm talking about? You will after you see the movie.

If you expect a slasher film because of the homicides, you will be sorely disappointed. All the killings are done out of sight. I guess this is to comply to the Beijing Film Bureau's heavy handed censorship. If you enjoy a movie with a philosophical musing, and a non-linear story structure, this may be your cup of tea.

The story is much better told in that 3-rewinds structure. It gives the audience 3 unique "Ah...I see", or eureka moments, which would be lost if told in a conventional way.

If this is this director's 1st movie (it seems so), I'm looking forward to his later works.

A Simple Life (2011)

Chinese title: Sister Peach (桃姐).

A Simple Life (2011)
A housemaid is usually addressed with the 'sister' title. She's a 'sister' to Roger's (played by Andy Lau) parent, but she's more like a 'mother' to Roger. It's funny that I watched a HK movie from 1988 where Yip and Lau played mother and son only last week.

This is a postmodernist film for whatever that word means to me (if I know what it means, then I'm not a post-modernist. But enough about me). It breaks down the barrier between social classes of the old, as recent as less than 2 generations ago in HK society. Sammo Hung, Tsui Hark and Raymond Chow play themselves in this film. Or a version of themselves. And Andy Lau also plays somebody who works in the film industry. Did I mention that this director Ann Hui also made The Postmodern Life of my Aunt?

I may have mentioned somewhere else in this list that she's one of the minority in HK film directors who made few commercial escapist films. Rather she made the kind of art-house films in genres that more similar to Taiwanese, and Mainlanders.

This is a HK movie, or a movie produced, written, acted by HK talents, and yet all the dialogues are delivered in Mandarin!!! Yes, all SB productions are in Mandarin, but this was the situation nearly 3 decades ago.

Nope. It isn't a Cantonese movie dubbed in Putonghua because I could recognise the actors' original voices. And what's more, most of them have Cantonese accents (although Andy Lau, and Deanne Yip's Cantonese accents are quite slight, but still noticeable). Except for Paul Chun ('uncle Kin'), and Anthony Wong whose voice was dubbed, probably because they can't speak Mandarin (it's hard to teach old dogs new dialect. Actually Paul Chun could speak very good Mandarin. Why he's dubbed it's 1 of those showbiz mystery).

And all of these lead me to believe that this HK movie is made for the Mainland market (and/or international market). This explains the low profile of the movie in HK itself. Well HK movie goers don't care about that anyway.

The film is carpeted with dry humour, if you like that, you would be floored.

The emotion in this movie is raw and honest. It's also sad, funny, poignant, heart warming, and even uplifting. You would be anything but unmoved by it.

This movie breaks record in HK film industry for winning the most international film awards as one would expect from a good art-house movie. She continued to outdo herself. Good to see.

See my IMDB list for all my available reviews of Chinese language films.