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June 05, 2012

Accident - A Second Look

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Yi ngoi
Soi Cheang - 2009
Shout! Factory Region 1 DVD

At the time that I originally wrote about Soi Cheang's Accident last year, the film had been out long enough for me to assume that there would be no U.S. release of any kind. That's all changed with the forthcoming DVD and Blu-ray releases.

I was glad for an excuse to see Accident a second time. Over the past few months, I have finally gotten around to seeing four of Soi's previous films. What is of interest to me is how his films are thematically linked. Certainly, Accident is where everything comes together in terms of both style and substance, making it his strongest film to date.

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What is common in Soi films is that his films often revolve around people who exist in the margins of society. Especially in the films made before Accident is the conflict between those who have materially comfortable lives and those who are scrambling just to get by. Accident doesn't have the class or cultural divisions of those earlier films, but the tie with those films is a protagonist who finds himself getting deeper and deeper into an irrevocable situation that offers no escape. Of Cheang's earlier films, the one most similar to Accident is Dog Eat Dog, about a Cambodian hit man adrift in Hong Kong, whose carefully planned life falls apart when he addresses his own previously suppressed humanity.

Anyone who has seen Coppola's The Conversation will recognize how much of the character of Harry Caul is in Louis Koo's "The Brain". The quartet that stage what appear to be accidents are all known by nicknames. We have Michelle Ye as "Woman", the wizened Feng Tsui Fan as "Uncle", and frequent Johnny To supporting player Lam Suet as "Fatty". "The Brain" creates the accidents, and directs the others in the staging. Things fall apart when an even bigger accident takes place during the staged accident, and "The Brain" also finds his apartment broken into, with the contents of his safe robbed. Where The Conversation ultimately hinged on the verbal inflection of certain words, leading to Caul's paranoid breakdown, "The Brain" puts meanings into conversations he partially hears but does not see, or meetings he has witnessed but not heard.

Visually, there are repeated uses of glass, glasses, and windows, both as ways to see and to be seen, and as a reflecting surface. Also there is much use of circular shapes, such as with the little telescope used by "The Brain", or the windows of the office that he observes. The key moment in the film takes place during an eclipse, when one circular object obscures another. There is also the selective use of red as a signifier of death or danger.

Possibly the best thing I can say is that seeing Accident a second time did not put a damper on any of the suspenseful moments.

Even better, for someone reading this, is that I have had one Blu-ray of Accident to give away. The only requirement is that you are a U.S. resident, are the first person to respond in the comments section, and are not paid to write about movies.

Eduardo wins!

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Posted by peter at June 5, 2012 08:49 AM