Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Liu lang shen gao ren (God Man Dog)

This second feature film by Taiwanese director Singing Chen is hard to really understand what it is all about, I have some ideas but honestly I’m not sure and this hardly ever happens to me. But I have to credit the filmmaker with keeping my attention and not for one second I thought about stop watching, I wanted to watch until the end to figure out what was all about.

There are four stories running in parallel, one about a hands model that gets postpartum depression and no one cares until her baby dies; another about an aboriginal working class family with the father being an alcoholic, the eldest daughter is a tomboy (yep, there are strong lesbian interest undertones) that had to leave home to go to Taipei where she’s going to school and became a freestyle kickboxing called “Sa Da Combat” fighter to try to get out of her fateful life, but at the same time wants to go back to be with her tribe; another about a one leg truck driver that saves traditional Chinese Gods and needs a new leg prosthesis; and a last one about a lonely young boy that is a petty thief that travels around Taiwan in the luggage compartment of busses. Characters in each story eventually cross their roads thanks to a road accident that happens because of a dog. Well, this is more or less what happens in the screen.

My feeling is that the movie is about Taiwan leaving old traditions behind, especially those traditions related to religion, as there is emphasis in the Catholicism of the aboriginal family and the model conversion from not believing in anything and becoming Christian, the throwing away traditional Chinese Gods and the truck driver “saving” them. But also I think that to my western eyes the stories told absolutely look like common everyday tales that happen in western societies, but that it seemed it didn’t happen before in eastern societies.

For almost half the movie I was sort of tired of watching what I call western common situations that looked not credible in an eastern society, but then the disassociated narrative became interesting and intriguing, I became really puzzled and I started wonder what this movie was really all about. So, obviously is not for all audiences, as you have to be really patient until you get to the point where the narrative becomes really engaging.

Finally I was able to read some relevant reviews, only to find that I’m not alone in saying that it is difficult to understand what this movie is really about. But for whatever is worth, I’m glad that Maggie Lee from the Hollywood Reporter and I have some agreements regarding what this movie is all about!

As a movie is compelling with very high production values, some very good framed takes, excellent cinematography, slow pace and some magic realism that makes the movie a good visual experience. Now that think about it, I’m sort of glad that the movie makes it hard to understand what’s all about, not only because it does not happen often but because it made me realize that eastern societies could be absorbing western attitudes, if this is happening, then the movie message is absolutely related to the loneliness people are now suffering more easily, when before they not necessarily did.

The movie has won some awards and has some nominations including winning the Tagesspiegel Readers’ Prize at the 2008 Berlinale. It has been a very interesting exercise, even when it was a hard one. So I have to congratulate the director for making me think beyond the obvious, she really knows how to create a complex narrative from apparently simple stories.

Even if it has a lesbian interest undertone in one story, I do not recommend this movie to most that read this blog, as absolutely is a complex movie to digest. But I know one or two that should give it a try and perhaps share with me their experience with this movie.

Again, absolutely not for all audiences and the movie has a difficult target that perhaps can be described as for those that do not mind to have a hard time figuring out what the movie is all about, lol!


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