Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Emperor Visits Hell (2013) New Directors New Films 2013

This doesn’t resemble a film, so much as a test film for a larger project. Actually what it looks like is a version of a film I submitted in college that almost kept me from getting my BA, but that is another story. It's actually the first time that I ever fell asleep in a festival or press screening (and fell asleep I did, several times during the course of the film)

The film is based on 3 chapters (9,10 and 11) from the Journey to the West in which the whole larger story is set in motion. Here the Emperor is approached by the Dragon King who wants his help in keeping his head with a matter in the heavenly court. The Emperor fails and the Dragon King loses his head. He then haunts the Emperor who dies and goes to hell.

A modern dress minimalist version of the story where some of the story is told via photos and text, this is 15 minutes of screen material padded with an hour of static shots and non-performances. Do we need to watch the calligraphy being done silently for five minutes? No do we need the long ride in the country at night? No. Do we need the news footage of the flood?No. Do they translate any of the on screen calligraphy and text? no.

There is a film here, just not a 70 minute one. I mean the film does work in bits and pieces, the modern dress is a cool idea and the dead pan humor is often very funny, but almost nothing happens.

One of the things I wrote in my notes was the line: This is the sort of film that could set back interest in Chinese films for decades. While it’s not that bad, it is the sort of independent film (from anywhere) that could set back interest in independent film for decades.

Avoid this one

1 comment:

  1. I think all the reviews I've read from Westerners merely show a huge cultural divide in understanding the context of this film. I find your review a bit acrid without adequate justification. You simply don't know what's going on onscreen. This movie is among the few recent Chinese films that Chinese aficionados actually enjoy. It's social and political satire achieved by mocking and drawing humorous parallels with the meanings of present day events and phenomena with their comparison with the Tang dynasty story. The original story is like a Don Quixote type piece of literature that people are expected to be familiar with in China.