Mittwoch, 12. Februar 2014

Berlinale: 推拿 (Blind Massage) / Things People Do

Chinese competition entry "推拿 (Blind Massage)" tells the tale of a group of blind masseurs fighting for dignity and the chance to love in Nanjing. Through its thematic singularity, realist approach, compassionate tone and committed performers, the movie never loses your attention or sympathy. At the same time, it's just rather unspectacular in every way. None of the multiple storylines is particularly inventive or well-developed. The directness and honesty of its voice is slightly compromised by a whiff of sentimentality. And among its technical achievements, nothing really stands out. Which is why, even when there's a fair amout of sex and surprisingly copious blood spill, this has to be considered a soft offering from accalimed director 婁燁 (Lou Ye). Of the actors, 黃軒 (Xuan Huang) is the most effective, in no small part because of the most fleshed-out character arc. The sequence following a major incident that befalls him later in the film is also the one place where we get a peek at Lou's here largely suppressed visual pizzazz- furiously, kaleidoscopically shot with a strong dose of youthful energy, it's an invigorating but sadly rare breath of fresh air in a movie too preciously cautious for its own good.

Saar Klein is a two-time Oscar nominated editor, so it's no wonder there's a grace and suggestive power to the edits in his directorial debut "Things People Do". But that's the extent of the nice things I have to say about this misguided, ill-conceived, supremely stupid movie about a good-guy-turned-amateur-robber. So preposterous is the premise of the story, so far removed from reality or any common sense its development, one just can't stop the eye-rolling not long after it starts. In the third act, when the screenwriters attempt to put a cool spin on the traditional moralistic ending, the sheer implausibility and laughable simplemindedness of the twist they come up with make it backfire so badly it's embarrassing to watch. There are lovely images of the American southern sky scattered throughout the unlikely chain of events and you just don't have the heart to pan the cast's efforts for such a thankless job, but overall, this is another prime example of something that has no business being at a film festival.

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