This movie reminds me so much of the Beatles song "A Day in the Life". It's disjoint, existential, seemingly apathetic, and yet it carries a sense of poetry & meaning that's a beauty to behold.
The plot is as simple as it gets: a young man crashes his car and spends the day trying to get it fixed. But the heart of the film is in how it's told. We get a series of fixed camera shots with little or no action except for 1 or 2 characters. It gives the impression of a photo album where the pictures come to life. There's no music. Dialogue is sparse and economical; not a word is wasted. Actors are virtually expressionless through most of the film, but that only adds to the power as we try to decipher what they're feeling beneath their stoic exteriors.
Other directors have used this minimalist approach to varying degrees of success. In this case, I think it's very effective. Despite the long, static, wordless shots, there's a sense of mystery & intrigue that builds up as we are forced to piece together what is happening and, more importantly, what happened before the story. That's what this movie is about--not really what we're watching but the unseen events that led us to this point. It's almost like we're watching a shadow or reflection of a much larger story. If you approach it this way, I guarantee it'll awaken your imagination, and your brain will be lit up like a Christmas tree by the end.
There's not much more I can say about the film except to compare it with other films that have given me the same feeling. Top on the list would be 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, the masterpiece of visual storytelling & puzzle-building. Anything by the Japanese master Takeshi Kitano falls into the same category (FIREWORKS, KIKUJIRO, DOLLS, A SCENE AT THE SEA, etc). THE HOLE and THE RIVER by Taiwanese director Ming-liang Tsai are right up this alley. MABOROSI ("Illusory Light") by Hirokazu Koreeda is another film that takes the same approach. And SONGS FROM THE SECOND FLOOR by Swedish director Roy Andersson gives us a similar taste. All of these are excellent, poetic films that use the camera as an objective observer without any flashy gimmicks to lead us. Instead it forces us, the audience, to take in every detail and use our brains a bit.
What sets this film apart from most of the others is that it has a strong sense of humour. Nothing outright lol-worthy, but amusing nonetheless. For example, we see a man and a dog each eating a bowl of Cheerios, perfectly choreographed to finish at the same time. I got a smile out of that & maybe you will too. Other scenes are so awkwardly hilarious (like an auto mechanic who is obsessed with Bruce Lee) that you can't help but chuckle. What makes it so funny is that these are things that probably happen to all of us in our everyday lives, but we never really take notice. This movie gives us the opportunity to scrutinize the strange things that happen to us all, and that's what makes it so intriguing.
I highly recommend it, and you don't even have to be an expert cinephile to appreciate it. If you watch it & like it, go check out the other films I've listed in this review (or if you hate it, be sure to avoid the films I've mentioned!).
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