Proving once again that Chinese filmmakers can pull a fast one on a par with any American studio, distribution and promotion for this Chinese art film was akin to that of a standard blockbuster/date movie and it took in a whopping—oh, hell, I don’t know—ton of money on the first day when people didn’t realize what it was. Then it crashed but, hey, no refunds. They say most of its B.O. was from that initial rush.
That aside, how is it? Or maybe more to the point, what is it? It reminded me greatly of another Chinese art film from 15(!) years ago called 2046. Which is no help at all if you’re not one of the six people who saw that movie. But basically, it’s a dream-like narrative which roughly follows the story of a once young man who left his hometown and lost his girl on the night his best friend was murdered, possibly by him or her, and his dad dies and the baby he would’ve had with his girl she aborts and then it all goes 3D and the boy’s there all those years later in a metaphorical death trap which is probably pretty literal except nothing is very literal and then he meets a girl who’s sort of like his other girl but not really and they fly (literally, or as literal as anything is here) and that hourlong 3D shot at the end is continuous like Birdman and…
Hell, I don’t know. There are a lot of threads here. And it’s probably not meant to be sussed out in any traditionally coherent way.
This is one of those movies that The Boy and I both kinda liked but wouldn’t recommend to a lot of people. It’s “challenging”, as they say. And it gets hard to hang on to anything because while there are themes of love, loss, familial obligation, the meaning of life, magic, they are themes rather than straight up narrative experiences. So you have to work a little harder on the one hand while on the other, it’s also Chinese which means you have to suss out when you’re missing something because it’s Chinese or because it’s just not there.
I think what kept us engaged was that it never quite crossed the line (for us) into self-indulgence. There are a lot of related images and themes that recur and that gave you something to ponder or to absorb. Like a big part of the theme was women: At one point there was ambiguity about a character who was his mother, who blended in with his missing girlfriend, who later re-appears in the story by not re-appearing but having left another guy and a child behind (who might not be the guy’s), and then a low-rent pool hall girl who kind of looks like her but isn’t her and a different, older low-rent woman whom he both protects and harms in the same moment who’s sort of motherly and sort of girlfriend-y.
I mean, it’s just not what you might call a left-brain movie. Take it in and get what you can out of it. The 3D is pretty effective, which is not something I say lightly. It’s only 110 minutes long per the spec sheet—but you will feel each of those minutes.