Saturday, November 30, 2013

In short: Blind Detective (2013)

Policewoman Goldie Ho (Sammi Cheng Sau-Man), excellent at the physical aspects of her work but not much of a detective, hires the blind master detective Johnston (Andy Lau Tak-Wah) to solve a disappearance that has bothered her since her childhood. Johnston likes reward money, good food, and solving age old cases for a living, so things should be set for a quick solution but things tend to get in the way, particularly Johnston's ways of finagling himself into Ho's apartment (so she can learn the art of detection from him, or was it because his own apartment needs repairs?), and using her to assist him in solving other crimes. Then there's this pesky little thing called love.

Blind Detective finds Johnnie To half-way between his most commercial impulses (the - very effective - tear jerkers that finance the films generally seen as more personal to him, though this just might be the result of a critical bias against certain genres) and his more involved films. On one hand, it's a sometimes - effectively - sentimental film full of physical humour and wild melodrama bringing together the stars of a successful romantic comedy, on the other one, it's also a film full of the visual energy and sheer imagination that makes To's films so special, and that he pares down for affairs like this. Consequently, I suspect this may be a film that won't taste quite right to the admirers of either one of To's extremes as a director.

To my own surprise as a definite non-fan of Hong Kong romantic comedy (or really, Hong Kong comedy at all), I found myself rather taken with the movie, the natural way it goes from light slapstick to outrageous melodrama to the sort of film that features a serial killer keeping quite a few corpses around his home and back again, the weird yet organic and elegant way To marries stylistic elements that really shouldn't belong into a single movie. This approach is rather typical of To of the last one or two decades, watching Blind Detective, however, never felt as if I were watching a film by a director coasting on his successes but rather a film made by a man still in love with the imaginative aspects of filmmaking, the possibilities of play, and the (perhaps childlike) joy of seeing disparate elements collide. Somehow, To also manages to make these things look slick.

While he's at it, To also makes a romantic comedy full of love gone wrong for one reason or the other, a cynical (or realist, depending on one's personal philosophy) view that again rubs disparately yet naturally against the happy end.

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