Monday 21 September 2015

Office - From below the radar David Young suggests a look at Johnnie To's new film

Johnnie To
The latest film by Johnnie To, Hong Kong film-making legend, is being treated with much deference. It's rare for his movies to get reviewed in the mainstream press or media but this time, after the film had its premiere at Toronto, the critical mavens have been onto it from the start. So we've had The Hollywood Reporter and Litle White Lies and Shelly Kraicer, the last being far more of an enthusiast in cinema scope

There is a supportive review by Philippa Hawker in the SMH online SMH online . I'm told that Jason Di Rosso has said kind words about it on Radio National but if you go looking for it and hit the button on the RN page marked "Subjects" nothing comes up under Film or Movies and at that point I gave up.

One matter that is worth noting is that the film was originally presented in 3D. The sets in particular would have been quite striking in this format. The copies here are 2D.

In the meantime cinephile David Young has tracked it down and sent in this note:

For a director who has made more than fifty films since 1980, Hong Kong's Johnnie To is surprisingly unknown (like many Asian directors) to the average filmgoer in Australia. Only the likes of Reading Cinema (when they were in the Haymarket), Hoyts and, lately, Event Cinemas have screened his films over the last decade or so. Highlights of his output as director include Election (2005), Mad Detective (2007), Sparrow (2008), and Life Without Principle (2011), while the interesting Eye in the Sky (2007),  Accident (2009) and Motorway (2012) were produced by him. His latest, Office (2015), is a highly stylised, slick and entertaining look at big business. It's a paean to consumerism in some segments, a primer on capitalism - the do's and the don't's - in other segments, a couple of love stories - good and bad - intertwined through the narrative, and an amazing set that reminds one of John Farrow's The Big Clock (1948) and Joel Coen's The Hudsucker Proxy (1994), in a shinier 21st Century setting, complete with a huge revolving clock that's used as a backdrop in many scenes. It's also a musical, and just like the song and dance numbers in the Chinese fantasy Monster Hunt (also 2015), they shouldn't work but they mostly do. The film can also be seen as a counterpoint to To's earlier more serious look at big business, Life Without Principle. Office has been running for a week but probably won't last too much longer; there were seven in the 10.15am session on Monday. 

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