Limbo: the thriller of the year comes to us from Hong Kong (review)

Limbo on DVD and VOD: the thriller of the year comes to us from Hong Kong (review)

A black and white hallucination from Hong Kong, like a waking, wet nightmare by Soi Cheang, stylist of extremes, pain and putrefaction.

Limbo, not to be confused with the Australian film of the same name starring Simon Baker, caused a sensation this year at the last Reims Polar Festival, where it won the Grand Prix and Critics’ Prize. Compared to Seven by David Fincher, this Hong Kong film directed by Soi Cheang is a slap in the face that you can now catch on DVD or VOD.

Watch Limbo on VOD on Première Max

You are in a maze. Call it a city, a nightmare, a vision, whatever you want. Call it Hong Kong, hell or purgatory, a giant gutter. Soi Cheang called it Limbo. Limbo. How to get out? We will not come out of this, at least not unscathed. It’s raining all the time, heavy rain, the sewers are overflowing, the trash cans are puking. You are soaked to the skin, your feet in the water, in the shit, in the decomposition. You watch this film and it’s as if you smelled it and its dirty waters penetrated your shoes, splash splash or chouik chouik with each step, the sensory trap which closes on you, with these enormous, delirious buildings, that crush you and prevent you from seeing the sky.

A labyrinth, a film like an existential terror, characters like lost souls eaten away by guilt, pain and by this damn humidity. The cop in the suit and tie has toothache that will rip his head apart. The one in the dark raincoat could just as easily have died a long time ago, struck by a trauma from which we cannot recover, a pain so strong that it anesthetizes everything else: lack of sleep, lucidity, sense. moral, reality. Severed hands are found in dumpsters, we must investigate the killer who gets rid of them.

So we investigate. It’s raining like in Se7en or in a Korean thriller but strangely, it doesn’t look like anything known, nor really a Hong Kong film, nor quite a Korean thriller influenced by Se7en. We are elsewhere, lost, disoriented, hallucinated. We run in all directions, we get lost, we cross paths, we lock up, nothing make sense anymore. Here, a secondary character of a little junkie with short hair… For some unknown reason, the cop in a dark raincoat, the guy who has been presented to us until now as the hero, throws himself at her and begins to beat her up, push her around, pursue her relentlessly, like a madman. And the film rocks.

Catch your breath, your spirits. For that, Soi Cheang would have to give us a moment’s respite but that’s not the style of the house, not the style of this haunted, tortured, accustomed filmmaker (Love Battlefield in 2004, Dog Bite Dog in 2006) to observe the world like an open, teeming wound, without painkillers, nor morphine, nor even a small doliprane 500. In Limbo, without being prepared for it, the young girl becomes the object of his gesture, the receptacle of all the violence of which he is capable, as if it were a question of making him bear the weight (the responsibility? ) of all the misery of this world. A Stations of the Cross without God, the likes of which we have probably never seen on screen. The actress’s name is Yase Liu, and it’s as if the director challenged his character to survive him, to stand up to him, and above all not to let go, while he unleashes his lightning on her, like in a washing machine. Or a dirtying machine. Blacker than black. We could see it as a form of complacency; it is rather an attempt at exorcism, a way for the filmmaker to transcend his own system, his own nihilism, in any case to question it. If the maze turned into a tunnel, would there be some light at the end?

Finished more than four years ago, this film has seen it all. Filmed in color, blocked by Chinese authorities, switched to black and white but banned again, selected in Berlin the year the festival took place online (2021), he is just emerging from the limbo he himself created. Winner at the recent Reims Polar festival, Grand Prix and Critics’ Prize, it is an object that should not exist, an apparition, a monstrous mirage that grabs its viewer and pursues them, until burying them under the power of his vision.

Of Soi Cheang. With Ka Tung Lam, Yase Liu, Mason Lee… Duration 1h 58min. Released July 12, 2023

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