Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Film noir and subversive humor combine with animation in Jian Liu's HAVE A NICE DAY

Not comparable with much else that TrustMovies has so far seen, especially in the realm of animation, Chinese filmmaker Jian Liu's new bizarre concoction entitled, with supreme irony, HAVE A NICE DAY proves such a darkly amusing look at China's underside -- does this country possess an "upside"?  Even when we see its cultural capitals and sleek skyscrapers, there always seems to be nefarious doings afoot --  that our grin turns quickly into a grimace.

As we watch Mr. Jian (shown below), as writer/director, take a gimlet-eyed look at what passes for a part of China's middle class (most if not all of them involved in crooked dealings), we see a society in which nitwit consumerism reigns supreme. (Yes, one might say that the USA reflects all of this, too.)

It seems that not only criminals, gangsters and family members are dirty, but maybe even some Buddhist monks, as well. "Dirty" may not be quite le mot juste, however, as these folk are simply trying to get ahead (or merely survive) as best they can. What they do ranges from criminal (unless stealing from a criminal is not a criminal act) to merely immoral, very violent or just plain mean.

Jian's movie is full of economics, humor, philosophy and politics -- though the latter is, I suspect, somewhat buried. If I were Chinese I'm sure I would have gleaned at least double the amount of information and enjoyment from the film, yet what I managed to get still provided an awfully good time.

My favorite moment comes as a criminal couple (above) imagines their upcoming life in Shangri-la (below) as a kind of musical number done in the style of those old Chinese Communist propaganda songs.

Among the philosophical wonders here is the explanation by one character to another of why freedom actually equals consumerism, while what you get depends on where you buy. This is quite the original little gem.

Animation-wise the movie's simplicity also proves its great strength. Jian mostly uses stationary backgrounds in front of which the action takes place. It's an odd combo of realism and stylization, and it works very well to create what you might call animation noir.

We follow along as that ever-popular "bag of money" leads one character to another and yet another until we've come full circle and seen what greed (and, yes, need) can produce. The fact that the first fellow we meet (you couldn't in your wildest dreams call him a hero) is stealing that money in order to pay for a second facial surgery for his girlfriend (because her first one was badly botched) just adds to the film's "crazy consumerism" theme. (Too bad Jian doesn't animate that bad plastic surgery; it'd be interesting to see what he came up with.)

There is so much dark fun to be had here, with much of this coming from the fact that (probably to keep his budget in tow) the director cuts away from almost all of the kind of excess blood, gore, car crashes and "action stuff" that so many of our current blockbusters delight in overdoing.

From Strand Releasing and running a just right 77-minutes, Have a Nice Day opens this Friday, January 26, in New York City at the Angelika Film Center and in Los Angeles, the following Friday, February 2, at Laemmle's Ahrya Fine Arts -- after which it will play another 18 cities across the country. Click here, then scroll down to click on Screenings in the task bar, to see all currently scheduled playdates, cities and theaters.

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