The Blue Mansion is a quirky murder mystery about a wealthy Asian tycoon who dies suddenly under mysterious circumstances. He returns as a ghost to try to uncover the secret of his death ...
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The Blue Mansion is a quirky murder mystery about a wealthy Asian tycoon who dies suddenly under mysterious circumstances. He returns as a ghost to try to uncover the secret of his death with the help of his family and the police.Written by
This is an excellent movie that I would highly recommend to anyone. At last, an Asian movie that is not a Kong fu flick nor a feel good Bollywood soufflé! The story is engaging and unfolds like a Shakespearean tragedy with comic relief. The heart of the movie is a family drama with an overbearing authority figure who imposes his will on his children and forces them to make personal sacrifices in order to conform to the will of the authority figure for the sake of the family legacy. It is an allegory that asks deep questions about Asian societies like China or Singapore where the ruling party imposes its will on the people – with good intentions but with enormous costs to the freedom and happiness of its people. One only has to look at the protests in Tibet and Xinjiang or even the Tian An Men incident in China to see frequent parallels to the allegory in the movie.
The movie is of high cinematic quality with gorgeous set design and shot with a film noir feel. The rich yet claustrophobic atmosphere created enhances the story of a wealthy family that lives in a gilded cage. Kudos to Larry Smith (DOP) and Ian Baillie (Set Design) for creating a look that transports the audience visually into the story. The original sound track by David Hirschfelder is brilliant and carries the audience when the sometimes dense script needs some help and heightens the drama when the action on the screen becomes increasingly tense.
The acting is theatrical and ironic, with Asian actors speaking perfect Queen's English. Many of us in the West may not be used to proper English being spoken by Asian faces, this is in fact a reality among a certain social strata in Asian countries which were once British colonies like India, Malaysia and Singapore and Hong Kong. The theatrical style and the visual effects create a surrealistic feel that forces the audience to view the film in a detached manner rather than be emotionally manipulated into the personal sagas of the characters. This is an interesting artistic choice – given the interesting characters in the story, the filmmaker could have chosen to milk our emotions as a Hollywood film would. Instead he has chosen to force us to be detached and evaluate each character and their journey unemotionally. Yet at the end of the movie I found myself deeply moved, not by any particular character but by the situation they have found themselves in by the choices they have made.
The movie is not easily pigeon holed into a specific genre. There are moments of comedy, suspense and horror. A family drama, a political metaphor and a comedy all rolled up in one. It took me a while to get used to it but once I allowed let the film take me where it wanted the experience was richly rewarding. There is a particular scene towards the end of the film that is the personification of human ruthlessness in blind pursuit of power that is chilling.
The family drama is one that is not confined to Asian or Confucian cultures. Many families of different ethnic backgrounds in America will identify with it.
In these times when we are in a crisis of confidence in our system in America, when the glittery capitals and the economic juggernauts of Asia seem so threatening, this film is a powerful reminder that beneath the new wealth of Asia, are people who are often brutally suppressed by their governments and who are not allowed the freedom of expression and choices that are as important in making us happy as human beings as material wealth.
I was surprised that this is only the second film of the director Glen Goei as it is the work of a mature director. The movie reminds me of Rashomon of Kurosawa with one story that unfolds so differently when told from different points of view. That film came out in postwar Japan and questioned the "Truth" that we read in newspapers and reminded us that "History" is written by victors. It also reminded us that after the abject misery of a nuclear holocaust, we should not let cynicism take over our view of humanity. The Blue Mansion also unfolds teasingly with different points of view and comes in the aftermath of our global economic crisis and reminds us not to romanticize the success of Asian societies which exercise a higher degree of central control at the expense of individual freedoms. Happiness is not measured only by material wealth and, as those of us who travel frequently to Asia know, the increasing paychecks there have not translated to increasing happiness among many people there.
The movie was marketed as a murder mystery in Singapore. I think that is somewhat misleading. It really is a thinking man's movie and a thinking man who allows this movie to transport him will have a true cinematic experience.
5 of 7 people found this review helpful.
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