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August 14, 2008



Gwai Wik
The Pang Brothers - 2006
Luminous Velocity Entertainment 35mm film

While waiting for a release of their remake of their own Bangkok Dangerous, I took advantage of seeing this earlier film by Danny and Oxide Pang theatrically. I've admittedly been a fan since the time I saw the original The Eye. Like The Eye, Re-Cycle has the same star, Angelica Lee, and combines a primarily Hong Kong cast in the speaking parts with extensive location shooting in Thailand. Admittedly, aspects of this film have been, excuse me, re-cycled, especially a plot point that's become something of a cliche associated primarily with Luigi Pirandello.

Lee plays the part of a writer famed for her best-selling romance novels. At the press conference for the release of a movie based on one of her books, she announces her plan to write a book in a more supernatural vein. When asked about the main female character in her romance novel, Lee admits that the creation may be unconsciously a part of herself. During the press conference, a former lover, not seen for eight years, appears. For Lee, what is desired is a total break from the past. It is while she is writing at night that one of the apparitions she is writing about seems to appear.

re-cycle 1.jpg

The Pangs prove that they have more to offer than redoing the familiar tropes of the Asian horror film. With tongue firmly in cheek we have the mysterious phone calls, the overflowing bathtub, the strange neighbors, and some strands of someone's long black hair. Just when the film seems to be revisiting familiar territory, with Lee walking done a long, dark and very spooky hallway, she finds herself in a very forbidding alley surrounded by crumbling buildings, and people . . . or are they human. It doesn't take a lot to realize that this nightmare journey is through a landscape imagined by Lee. One of the more visually stunning sets is of an area filled with abandoned toys, some of them giant sized. The scene resembles a live version of one of the sets in the anime Paprika, only worn and dilapidated. The people in this nightmare landscape are people from Lee's past since forgotten and imagined characters from abandoned writing.

A part of Re-cycle which may court some argument is in regards to a scene involving abortion. While the stance of the film is pro-life, it is not couched within the Christian framework. That this nether world is populated by people both real and imagined does not make literal sense although it works within the framework of a dream. Within a broader view, one could interpret the film as being about reconciling oneself to those least comfortable parts of one's past, and perhaps making peace with personal demons.

re-cycle 3.jpg

Posted by peter at August 14, 2008 12:55 AM