Feeling in Cannes. A neo-noir story about the pursuit of lost love, which is based on the interweaving of reality and the dream fantasy and results in a one-hour photo shot in a single 3D cut.
Chinese poet and filmmaker Gan Bi, who celebrated his thirtieth birthday in early June, is probably the greatest hope of contemporary Asian cinema. His first film, Kaili Blues (2015), reminiscent of the Thai master of the captivating reincarnation Apichatpong Weerasethakul, or the great new wave of Taiwan, is one of the major premieres of this decade. However, she won Best Debut and Director of Discovery awards in Locarno.
A doctor from the interior with a dark past goes to Kaili Blues to make promises to his homeland. He wants to find a lost nephew and connect an old lover through the entrusted objects. While visiting a small town lost in the mist of the river, however, his repressed memory begins to live his own life, and the journey becomes a mystical experience for him. By mirroring his consciousness, it becomes a damn forty-minute shot, fired in one shot.
The return of the "lost son" to his birthplace in southwestern China is also seen in Gan Biho's second feature, which was first screened last year at the Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain Regard section. There he attracted great attention and by his imaginative visual concept he was criticized for the most fascinating and original film of the entire festival.
Let's just remember that your English distribution title has nothing to do with the play by the same name of the American playwright Eugen O & # 39; Neill The Long Day to Night Night of 1956 and poet Robert Bolaña.
And the poem reminiscent of Gan Biho's new work. A lyric, meditative, contemplative poem, in which the author inserts his own author verses. It is not, of course, a poem written or recited, but a visual poem that has a structure and themes similar to the poems.
The theme of the film is the search for lost love and the past, in which poetic ambiguity or metafecity meets the way the viewer receives information about this quest for old love.
The last nights on Earth are a lyrical visual poem but noir that works with all property of this genre. If they are the typical figures of stories noir, the way of narration, the scenery and the aesthetic or visual representation of this genre.
So we have a private detective, a solitary, isolated detective looking for a mysterious and lost femme fatale who was a fierce mafia boss's lover. In the scenarios of brothels, casinos, and ruins of old houses, other underworld characters are emerging, but the frequent rain of symbolism is a symbol of the past.
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Cameramen David Chizallet (Mustang) and Hung-i Yao (Lavander Killer) emphasize the narrative nature of the narrative, working with the image, reflecting other plots in reflections and shadows. These frequent photos in the window, mirror, puddle, mirror or glass door for an aesthetic noir include, in addition to the delicious layer of cigarettes, rain, smoke and steam in the streets or neon signs that light up the dark alley at night.
The story of love, passion and crime is accompanied by the narration of the main character and also by the design motif of Gionga Lima (Assassin), which by its cyclic repetition gives this narrative a strongly fatalistic touch. The shots flow slowly and demand our great attention because, as the past mixes with the present, the spectator is constantly forced to evaluate what information from which the temporal plane becomes the guide to the next.
Search by love lost
The main character, former casino manager Luo Hongwu (Huang Jue), is returning to this hometown of Kaili, located in the subtropical Guizhou province of China, where it is constantly wet. Then he returns to the same city where the film director comes from. He arrives here for his father's funeral and remembers his long lost love, Wan Qiwen (Wei Tang), and the reasons he left here years ago.
He recalls the fate of his friend, nicknamed Cat or Wildcat (Lee Hong-chi), who died by local gangster Zu Hongyuan (Chen Yongzhong). And also his love, Wan, whose destiny he decides to look for.
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He is remembered by another woman named Kaizhen, who reveals to him when he returns home and disappears like a ghost who chases him in his oppressive thoughts. His role in the narrative is an obvious reference to Hitchcock's Vertigo and the theme of the double.
Memory as an unreliable guide to knowing the past
The feeling of disorientation in erasing the boundaries of what is past and present, what reality, dream or fictional projection is gradually replaced by its entrance or immersion in this magical space and meditation in time. A magical-realistic poem about loss, pain, and the pursuit of lost love is transformed into a dream, woven from our unreliable memory and an even more dubious reality, that the main character becomes an unreliable interpreter.
So what we observe may be fragments of the past, as well as illusions or dreams of heroes. Luo follows the steps of his old steps to find the key of the present. But his memory shows signs of wear for the time. It becomes a more fragile and treacherous tool for knowing the past and separating the true memories from the false ones. The search thus becomes a controversy with this past.
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The captivating and hypnotic rhythm of the narrative, the colorful visualism and the symbolism used, with many repetitive motives, both objective and musical, evoke both the work of Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Waie, the creator of the famous work Love, and the highlights scored by Andrei Tarkovsky. Persecution, Nostalgia and Victim. With it, Gan Bi finds a point of contact in the use of the water motif, which often appears in Tarkovsky's films.
Transition to a surreal three-dimensional image
Here, just as at the debut of Kaili Blues, the film becomes the most powerful film medium the director makes full use of. Not only in the piece with colors and compositions, but mainly in the transformation of the format of two-dimensional 3D film in the final hour. Non-narrative narration, working with abstract concepts such as space and time, lack of reliability of our memory and memories, merges into a single shot in the finals, filmed in a single cut, in 3D.
A similar experiment was used by Alexander Sokurov in the film The Russian Ark of 2002. Cinefilm will experience pleasure and the director will immediately position himself among the most interesting contemporary filmmakers. This nearly hour-long film serves as a revelation and guides the hero through the ruins of the provincial city in search of lost love.
It sinks deeper and deeper into its memory, when the transition to 3D format allows the director to express how that memory works. In all its problems and fugacity. Where other creators would like to cut, install sequences and special effects, he choreographically works with the mise-enchant where people and images of his past and present alternate.
If the first hour and the fourth could have a dull impression on an unprepared spectator who did not know what it was, it is compensated here by the space-time movement at various levels of reality that turns into surrealism. People levitate, houses spin, they work with ping pong or billiards. It all ends with a final kiss.
A scarce ad campaign
And it was in the technical brilliance of the image and in the romantic setting that they chose to attract local audiences in China. The film had a premiere distribution on the eve of New Year's Eve and New Year while in the advertising campaign was cleverly promoted as an ideal to spend the last day of the year with a beloved counterpart. So funny and romantic. It was also the fact that their showing was scheduled for such an hour that the final kiss of the heroes in the movie was just about midnight on New Year's Eve.
This marketing campaign caused the film to invoice $ 38 million in one day, and then its sales fell dramatically. The audience, awaiting a cozy mainstream title, expressed their disappointment and indignation, and was cheated by this viral campaign. But I add more as a funny story that tells how China is being treated with reality in China and the field of film marketing, does not say anything about the quality of the image itself.
It is a masterpiece of art. More important than the plot that artistically works with the noir genres, there is a climate that affects it. She is intoxicating in her melancholy, poetic, hypnotic, contemplative. In an aesthetically pleasing way, the director is building his lyrical neo-noir love story, based on the blend of reality and dream-fantasy, past and present. And he demonstrates his power and captivity through the beauty of the image, the impressive technical ability, and the mysterious and ethereal Kafkaesque story of finding lost love.
Last nights on Earth
- Genre: lyrical drama noir
- Original title: Di qiu zui eu de ye wan
- China, 2018
- Scenario: Gan Bi
- Director: Gan Bi
- Starring: Wei Tang, Huue Huang, Meng Li, Chen Yongzhong, Hong-Chi Lee
- Distribution: Film Europe
- Distribution debut in the Czech Republic: 06. 06. 2019