Monday, June 23, 2008

Even More Surfaces!!! - "Mad Detective" at the New York Asian Film Festival

Remember how hard it was for me to find a pairing for Flight of the Red Balloon (if not see my last post)?? Well I have now a possible candidate for a TRIPLE FEATURE!! Add Johnny To's Mad Detective to the mix:

First off, Johnny To just keeps getting better and better.  Often with Asian directors such as the oft praised Wong Kar Wai, you have to make allowances for overly shmaltzy sequences or unrealistic action scenes as merely the fault of lower production value or loss during translation.  To requires no such excuses.  His genre smashing films are slick, beautiful and most of all, smart (I also find them hilariously funny, but am often alone here).   My favorite is still the 2006 film Exiled (even though it is set in Macau and centered around a group of aging gangsters, it is one of the best Westerns I have seen in a while, if not ever).  

Mad Detective's cinematic craftsmanship is perhaps To's best. The last shot, a birds eye view of a room full of broken mirrors, is a masterpiece*.  It is one of those last shots that manages in one shot to encapsulate the entire conflict/point of the whole film.  In the film, Lau Ching Wan plays Bun, a schizophrenic detective (he has the schizo walk down to a science) who is able to see someone's inner personalities. While the villain appears to Ho, the regular detective, to be just one man, Bun sees that he is in fact seven different people: the glutton (perfect casting of To regular Suet Lam), the violent maniac, the calm controlling female executive etc.

So why add this film to an already complete double feature?? Answer: Another cinematic surface to consider.  In the climactic last scene (no worries, no spoilers here) the audience sees the inner personalities of characters reflected in a wall of mirrors. While in Kung Fu Panda and Flight of the Red Balloon, reflections directly reflected back "reality," in Mad Detective the surface reflects what is hidden.  Here the surfaces drastically changes what is seen.  So is the mirror distorting like a carnival crazy mirror or is the mirror showing what is "real", the inner self??

P.S.  If you are not feeling the triple feature another possible pairing for this film would be the Hal Hartley 2001 film No Such Thing (ok actually spoilers this time). In Hartley's film (also known as Monster), the monster is only destroyed by convincing him that he does not exist. This is done through a series of small mirrors and lenses that reflect light and his image (or lack of?) back towards him.  Here the surface's reflection actually destroys a character.

* Double Feature of films with Amazing last shots: Mad Detective and Tom Tykwer's Heaven (2002)

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