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November 03, 2017

Denver Film Festival - Have a Nice Day

have a nice day.jpg

Hao ji le
Liu Jian - 2017
Strand Releasing

A black comedy about crooks and schnooks fighting each other over a bag of money? Nothing new here, except this film is animated and from mainland China. And if the Chinese government has its way, you wouldn't be able to see Have a Nice Day, as happened when the film was pulled from an animation film festival in France.

Liu's film takes place in an unnamed city in southern China, run-down and dingy. The glitz and glamor of Beijing or Shanghai are nowhere to be seen here. Capitalism here means making just enough to get by. By western standards, the loot in question is a relatively modest amount - one million yuan is actually a bit more than one-hundred fifty thousand dollars. Still, it's enough to get people to kill each other for possession of the bag, money belonging to local crime boss Uncle Liu.

On the way, Liu (the filmmaker, not the gangster) makes points about such classic Chinese tropes as family and loyalty, the concept of freedom, with references Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and Jack Ma, founder of the hugely successful e-commerce site, Alibaba. At one point, the film stops for a music video moment, a song about Shangri-la, with images that are parodies of Chinese propaganda posters. The only reminder of the political realities of where Have a Nice Day takes place with the face of Mao Tse-Tung on the red one-hundred yuan bills.

The animation is limited, and some of the characters are drawn in a way that I found reminiscent of Satoshi Kon (Perfect Blue). Liu gives a hint about when the film takes place when Donald Trump is overheard on the radio. That Chinese authorities will do what they can to keep the home audience from seeing Have a Nice Day is evident not only because of the motley characters and scenes of violence, but also the presentation of the legal authority seen in the film - a mannequin dressed as a traffic cop, ignored and ineffective.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at November 3, 2017 10:11 AM