A black and white hallucination from Hong Kong, like a waking and humid nightmare by Soi Cheang, stylist of extremes, pain and putrefaction.
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, cats and dogs, the sewers are overflowing, the garbage cans are puking. You’re soaked to the skin, your feet in the water, in shit, in decay. You watch this film and it’s as if you smelled its odors and its dirty water penetrated your shoes, splash splash or chouik chouik with each step, the sensory trap closing in on you, with these huge, delirious buildings, that crush you and prevent you from seeing the sky. A labyrinth, a film like an existential terror, characters like souls in pain corroded by guilt, pain and by this damn humidity. The cop in a suit and tie has toothaches enough to tear his head off. The one in the dark raincoat could just as well have died a long time ago, struck by a trauma from which one cannot recover, a pain so strong that it anesthetizes everything else: lack of sleep, lucidity, meaning. moral, the real. We find severed hands in the 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, neither really like a Hong Kong film, nor quite like a Korean thriller influenced by Se7en. We are elsewhere, lost, disoriented, hallucinated. We run in all directions, we get lost, we pass each other, we get bogged down, nothing make sense anymore. Here, a secondary character of a little junkie with short hair… For some unknown reason, the cop in the dark raincoat, the guy we’ve been presented with as the hero so far, throws himself on her and starts beating her, jostle, pursue it relentlessly, like a madman. And the film rocks.
Catch his breath, his spirits. For that, Soi Cheang would have to give us a moment of respite, but that’s not the kind of 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, or morphine, or even a little 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 carry the weight (the responsibility? ) of all the misery of this world. A way of the cross without God, like we’ve probably never seen on a screen. The actress’s name is Yase Liu, and it’s as if the director were challenging his character to survive her, to stand up to her, and above all not to let go, as he unleashes his lightning on her, as in a washing machine. Or a dirt machine. Blacker than black. One could see in it 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 known everything. Shot 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 extracting himself from the limbo he himself deployed. Winner at the recent Reims Polar festival, Grand Prix and Prix de la Critique, it is an object that should not exist, an apparition, a monstrous mirage that grips its spectator and pursues him, until burying him under the power of his vision.
Of Soi Cheang. With Ka Tung Lam, Yase Liu, Mason Lee… Duration 1h 58min. Released July 12, 2023