THE GREAT BUDDHA+
(director: Hsin-yao Huang; cinematographer: Mong-Hong Chung; editor: Hsiu-hsiung Lai; music: Sheng-Xiang Lin; cast: Cres Chuang (Pickle), Bamboo Chu (Belly Bottom), Leon Dai (Kevon Huang), Michael Shao-Huai Chang (Skaya/Sugar Apple, drifterS), Kuo-Lin Ting (Yeh Feng Ju), Mei-Hsiu Lin (Sister), Mei Lin (Mother Pickle), Na-Duo Lin (Peanut), J.C. Lei (Gucci), Tuo-Shen Chen (Pickle’s Uncle), Yi-wen Chen (Congressman Gao), An-Shun Yu (Shun, police investigator); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Mong-Hong Chung, Ju Feng Yeh; Cheng Cheng Films; 2017-Taiwan-in Taiwanese Hokkien Mandarin with English subtitles) B/W
“It’s an awkwardly funny and bleak black comedy on unbridled voyeurism that reflects cynically on the human condition.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The title refers to a giant bronze statue being erected for a new Buddhist temple in the main area of the film’s small town setting somewhere in Taiwan. It’s an awkwardly funny and bleak black comedy on unbridled voyeurism that reflects cynically on the human condition. It’s written and directed, in his feature film directorial debut, by Taiwanese documentarian Hsin-yao Huang (“Taivalu”). It won the top prize at the Taipei Film Festival. The director throughout offers commentary on what is seen. It was funny when various people are viewed acting in a selfish way and when watching country bumpkins act so horny. When it reaches for darker melodrama over a tussle between the mistress and her wealthy shady factory owner, the laughs become harder to justify and the film’s political aims and rant on class-warfare takes over the narrative.A loser nebbish night watchman for a wealthy factory owner, Pickle (Cres Chuang), where the Buddha statue is being assembled, and his longtime low-life unemployed trash-picker buddy Belly Bottom (Bamboo Chu), by accident uncover some racy video of his politically well-connected but overly amorous unfaithful married factory boss Kevon Huang (Leon Dai) on his dash-cam mounted on his Mercedes Benz. This footage is in color while the film is in black-and-white. The pair of marginalized misfits meet daily in the security room, where Pickles enjoys the porn magazines Belly Bottom collects on his rounds and together having late night snacks and watching television. Pickles dedicates himself to supporting his sick elderly mother, as he also moonlights in a funeral marching band. They both lead dull lives, and seem to have no ambition but to just survive and to admire the rich for leading exciting lives. Because the TV is broken, they turn to the boss’s car dash-cam for entertainment and get off hearing him have sex with his girlfriend (Kuo-Lin Ting) until even that pleasure is taken from them. What works best is the director showing the pathos of Taiwan’s uneducated underclass and their hopeless lives. Those marginalized folks left out of the country’s economic resurgence, who are not to be blindly pitied as the director shows them to be vulgar and unreliable men who curse and act sexist over women and will bully others if they can get away with it even if they are also vics of bullying. It also rails on how society has become so corrupt the rich can get away with even murder and politicians couldn’t be more sleazy and religion is mainly a sham used to keep people in line.
REVIEWED ON 1/1/2019 GRADE: B+ https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/