Saw Trần Anh Hùng’s last film ‘I come with the Rain’. He had been telling us about this project for years and years. My father received a copy of the screenplay back then, when the possibility that he wrote the score for the film was still in the air. Unfortunately it didn’t happen eventually, to his greatest chagrin. Instead, Hùng used large portion of Radiohead songs.
The cast had one actor that got me all excited: Lee Byung-hun. To think that they worked together! This actor is a living dream to me. I was wondering how Hùng would develop from his latest film, At the Height of the Summer. Action packed thriller? Would he be able to? Romantic? Yes, we are all expecting his filmic adaptation of Murakami’s Norwegian Woods. I hadn’t the faintest idea.
From the poster, I imagined an action thriller set in Hong Kong. Wasn’t the subject originally a contemporary setting of the last days of Jesus, set in Asia? How much of that would remain?
I got all the answers from the very first minutes.
Action packed thriller it would not be, in spite of the presence of Josh Hartnett or Lee Byung-hun. The film delved in the territories he opened with Cyclo. I’m not sure many people will like it. It was very crude and violent, experimental and extremely tense. Definitely not for the soft-hearted.
Ulysses who came with us left the film midway. Jun, who doesn’t quite enjoy the sight of blood got eyefuls of it… The film haunted me for a long time. It’s imperfect like most of Hùng’s films, the actors were left to themselves; the plot was much too uncertain, the dialogues too verbose and stilted at times - they sounded like a Japanese theatre drama. In spite these ‘flaws’, I totally immersed myself in the film. It was a live nightmare, beautifully photographed, which echoed many personal issues and questions. In spite of the stellar cast, I doubt this film will attract millions of viewers…
And… what is it with Hùng that he keeps making these long shots of his three male lead’s naked skin? The sight of bare-chested Lee Byung-hun is far from unpleasant – except that he’s beating someone to death in the scene. Josh Hartnett and Takuya Kimura ‘suffer’ the same fate… As in his first three films, Yên Khê, his wife plays the role of a woman who goes through a purification process, a second birth, this time as a modern-age Asian Maria Magdalena… What is it? What is it? I will have to ask him when I see him.