Sometimes I am such a lucky chap. I have been fortunate to have watched a large number of fabulous movies recently (and some more are going to be blogged about soon), and this one really has been the icing on a rather sumptuous cake.
“Turn Left, Turn Right” is a tale of two people, John Lui (the always brilliant Takeshi Kaneshiro) and Eve Choi (Gigi Leung), living in Tapei. He is a concert violinist with dreams of playing for a great European orchestra, she a translator of trashy fiction who dreams of publishing her translations of Polish Poetry. They are two lost and arty souls in the big city. They meet for one afternoon, realise that they had met as children, and exchange telephone numbers. A sudden downpour forces them apart, and smudges the numbers they have written down. The rest of the film follows their attempts to contact each other again.
Except it is so much more than that. You see they actually live next door to each other. In fact they are close to each other so very often, but just never get to connect.
They both meet other people, and are forced into relationships with these rather over-the-top individuals. And well, you know what happens from here.
In fact, for some, this set of coincidences will annoy you. But if you can deal with that you will find this film utterly charming.
Based on an illustrated book (not a comic) by Jimmy Liao, this film is brilliant on a number of levels.
Firstly, it looks amazing. So far so normal for the kind of films I talk about. But it is about more than beauty – there is such intelligence of how Johnnie To and Wai Kar Fai have put this movie together. Everything is about mirror images, duality and synchronicity. The two leads spend barely 10 minutes of the movie in each others company, but they are constantly linked sometimes in plot and theme, sometimes on the screen (and never do the directors use the normal split-screen to achieve this). I could name five or six scenes in this one movie alone which would elevate any single movie to greatness.
Secondly, it is almost as if there are two films going on. The leads are very deep thinkers, artsy, playing their part in some deep, serious emotional drama. Whereas the supporting characters (Edmund Chen and Terry Kwan) are playing some kind of over the top comedy. And for me it works brilliantly as almost the reverse of the standard romantic comedy where only the lead characters are funny. Chen maybe overdoes it a little, but Kwan is magnificent. Her character also gets a little more sympathy from the writers, enabling her to come out of the various episodes with a little more credit.
Thirdly, the tension racks up to the point where you just want to grab the lead characters and shake them until they understand just how close they are. And then the film LITERALLY does that. Wonderful.
So in conclusion, a fabulous movie, probably one of the best 10 I have spoken about so far. I will certainly be revisiting it myself many many times.