This one is hot off the press!
Back in my early Asian cinema days I was greatly impressed by “The Eye” by the Hong Kong (but usually working out of Thailand) twins Oxide and Danny Pang. “The Eye” was fun little “I see dead people” horror movie, raised above the mediocre by some incredibly inventive direction and camerawork.
I also loved “Ab-normal Beauty”, also directed by Oxide, and to be honest, when I can find my missing DVDs I will talk about them more in later posts.
However, when I was recommended “Diary” recently, I was very excited to see if I would still be entranced by their work.
This is one twisted little movie. It is frighteningly quick (1h 20m), but highly effective.
It tells the tale of a young girl (Charlene Choi in what in my opinion is just a stunning performance) who is grieving the loss of her boyfriend. She meets a new guy (who looks just like the boyfriend) and seems to have a close friend with whom she shares her thoughts with. Oh and she likes to write in her diary, and makes puppets.
Oh and she is schizophrenic.
Nope, that is not a spoiler – it is made quite clear 20 minutes into the film.
Now stuff happens, truths are unwrapped, then re-examined, and re-exposed. Maybe there are too many endings, but it is a great journey getting there.
Most of the movie is held together by three things:
- Charlene Choi (the other actors are more than fine, but this film completely relies that you can believe in this girl)
- The look of the film (amazing colour palette)
- The occasional bit of genius from the director.
We know things are not right with this girl in all sorts of ways – whether they are subtle (such as an unusual camera angle), or more obvious (two scenes come to mind – one when a dark thundercloud invades her room – and two when a giant puppet disturbs her). Watch also the scene where Choi is being interviewed by the Police. Watch her eyes. Watch her formulate her lie. Then watch her change as she tells the lie with conviction. If she has ever acted better – let me know. I don’t think I would have thought she was capable of this kind of performance – she is going to turn up later in the list with quite a different sort of film and acting display.
One could argue that, as with most of the Pang’s oeuvre, that their style often overshadows the lack of substance in the films. But in this case, as a study in madness, i can forgive the somewhat slight story being told. I found the film totally captivating. It is a difficult watch though – the film plays with time, and revisits scenes on several occasions. Even the opening credits get replayed. Literally.
But stick with it, and even if the story does not get you – appreciate the craft.