Monday, December 03, 2012

奪命金 Duó Mìng Jīn (Life Without Principle)

Another director that I'm not familiar with, but believe that this film is an interesting way to start to learn about him as is not his usual gangster story, even when the subject matter is touched in one of the three stories told here. Interesting because I haven't been much exposed to stories set in contemporary Hong Kong, now under Chinese rule, and much less when movie deals with the universal theme of greed set in the midst of the global economical crisis.

But as expected by movie title and from an oriental movie, story is not developed as we are used to see in western cinema, which obviously makes film more interesting to watch than, for example, the two Wall Street movies. My brief story interpretation is that deals with human behavior and how different can they behave under "new" circumstances -especially in a society/culture with a long-tradition of honorable life principles. But more universal, when the rules of the life-game change.

Johnnie To's story is told by telling the three-days story of three characters with very different backgrounds, bank employee Teresa (Denise Ho), triad loyal gangster Panther (Lau Ching Wan) and police inspector Cheung (Ritchie Jen). The key element in the three stories is financial investments profit and how far they go to have the "happy-ending" all three stories have. The "how far" element is not explored in a dramatic way, but in a very ordinary-life succession of events. So ordinary that when you think twice (you have to think twice) you realize that everything told here could be based more on reality than in fiction.

But definitively is To's storytelling style what captures your attention as stories are told not sequentially, there are many secondary characters introduced, and intertwined stories flawlessly become one in one fantastic scene, the only scene with the three characters in the screen, the final scene. Big kudos to editing as yes, believe that editing was fantastic here, so good that not only enables viewers to have eyes glued to the screen but also makes story very provoking and excellent source of food-for-thought after watching when you start to digest everything you just saw. Yes, film is complicated, not superficial and surely not many viewers are willing to invest time to decode what they saw after watching.

As we know film premiered in competition at 2011 Biennale, Johnnie To won the Best Director award at 2012 Golden Horse Awards where Lau Ching Wan won best actor and screenplays got Best Original Screenplay award; but most interesting, is Hong Kong submission to 2013, which I really do not understand as honestly believe film is too complex for general audiences and much more for foreign-language committee members.

I do recommend movie to those viewers that are willing to invest time to decode what they will see in the screen as believe that if you see film with "regular" eyes you probably will not enjoy it that much.


Watch trailer @MOC

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