Sunday, July 16, 2023

ART COLLEGE 1994 (2023) NYAFF 2023

Liu Jian's follow up to the animated neon noir HAVE A NICE DAY is going to either thrill you or bore you to tears. Based on the director's time at China's Southern Academy of Arts the film follows a number of students as they create their art and ponder the universe.

One of my must see films of this year's NYAFF disappointed me. Having loved the director's previous film, this follow up  bored me silly.  

While part of the problem is the film's over length, the real problem is that the self absorption of the characters got to be too much. The film is full of deep discussions of art, of meaning and subjects that drunk students in a philosophical mood might talk about, and not much beyond that. While I'm certain this is what is was probably like at the Academy it's all so one note that after awhile I was talking to the screen asking it to get on with it. At times this feels like a social media post you can't scroll past.

It doesn't help that the fragmented nature of the narrative and multiple characters never allows things to build. Too much is thrown at us that doesn't go anywhere. The result, unlike the director's previous controversial film ART COLLEGE 1994 just sort of is. The final sequence about a painting a professor doesn't approve of should have played like a played like a poke in the eye to authorities who tried to ban Jian's earlier film, and instead it was a sequence that didn't go anywhere or have emotional power. It should have been an exclamation point and instead it just was.

While not bad, it never soars and it never justifies it's two hour running time.

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