Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.
China, 2012. 21 Century Shengkai Film. Screenplay by Chen Kaige, Danian Tang. Cinematography by Shu Yang. Produced by Chen Hong. Music by Shangyou Ma, Ke Meng. Production Design by Yiguang Gao, Nan Tu. Costume Design by Kazuhiro Sawataishi. Film Editing by Dianshi Li. Toronto International Film Festival 2012.
It’s no surprise when a filmmaker more famous internationally for rich and elaborate costume dramas decides to try his hand at something lighter; it’s disappointing when someone who has accomplished films as epic in scope as Farewell, My Concubine and The Emperor and the Assassin is responsible for simplistic soap opera. After a young woman finds out from her doctor that she is terminally ill with cancer, she is filmed being rude to a fellow passenger on the bus on her way back to her office. The video of her social faux pas goes viral and initiates a shit storm of media attention that eventually has a reporter following her every move while the entire nation of China judges her behaviour. She decides to go underground, hiring the reporter’s boyfriend to be her bodyguard as she arranges her final days, while her bosses find their company in a financial crisis when her incident threatens a big merger. Director Chen Kaige is making a very broad statement about Chinese society and the role that the modern online world plays in the direction of its economy, but the commentary isn’t particularly poignant. Most of the plot’s turns are hopelessly melodramatic, but not in such a gleeful way that would make the experience more enjoyable.