Soulmate (Derek Tsang, 2016)

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A young woman, Ansheng, is tasked by her boss with tracking down the author of an in-progress serialized web novel, as their company would like to option it for a movie adaptation. (This is a thing that happens: the best film of 2014, Fruit Chan’s The Midnight After (now streaming on Netflix) was adaptaed from an unfinished serialized web novel written by an entity known as PIZZA.) She’s given this assignment because one of the main characters is apparently based on her: it’s an account of Ansheng’s lifelong friendship with a woman named Qiyue, from their instant communion as middle-schoolers to their inevitable growing apart over twenty years. The bulk of Derek Tsang’s film is the text of this novel, which has the appearance of a flashback, but with a few key subjective elisions and time-warping montages, hints that reality is not as reliable as it appears. One of those montages is scored by the title track from Faye Wong’s Restless (Fuzao), which speaks to the film’s excellent taste within a fundamentally unoriginal framework.

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This Week at the Multiplex

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The second phase of Awards Season is upon us, with early Oscar contenders spreading like a winter cold across Seattle Screens. Late November is the final stretch before the Christmas glut, when studios dump all their high profile releases at the same time, a phenomenon which never ceased to amaze me in my former life in the theater business: the early weeks of December are always a wasteland, while a dozen quality films come out at the same time at the end of the month, stretching into January, when certain releases will finally make it out of the New York-LA bubble to grace us in the hinterlands with their Oscar lunges. Most November releases will be forgotten by that time, the awards bloggers twiddling with their own self-created narratives, while the actual business of handing out awards is mostly accomplished. I caught up with a few of the films with strong cases for end-of-the-year recognition last weekend at the local mall, Brooklyn, Spotlight and Creed, all of which are very fine films you can catch all over town, at least for a couple more weeks.

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Go Away Mr. Tumor (Han Yan, 2015)

Dr. Liang (Daniel Wu) and his patient Xiong Dun (Bai Baihe) in the Chinese film, Go Away Mr Tumor. Xiong has watched lots of Korean TV dramas and she has a crush on Dr. Liang, so she often imagines scenes like this one.

The goofy, cutsy, CGI-driven, Chinese fantasy cancer melodrama we didn’t know we needed. The clash of tones I imagine would be unbearable for most, especially audiences trained on Hollywood rules about tonal and generic consistency, but it was a smash hit in China (and is still on-going) and managed an extremely rare third week in diasporic theatrical release here in Seattle. When I left the auditorium, I saw a woman sobbing uncontrollably, the guy with her trying in vain to console her. I can’t blame her at all. It’s silly and dumb and heartfelt and devastating.

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