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Hong Kong Nocturne: The Films of Johnnie To

Friday, June 27, 2008
8:40 p.m. Mad Detective
Johnnie To, Wai Ka-fai (Hong Kong, 2007)

(Sun taam). The laconic Lau Ching-wan, Hong Kong’s answer to Robert Mitchum and reigning Best Actor of the Year in the Hong Kong Film Awards, returns to Johnnie To’s side after a seven-year absence with this bizarre tale of a “mad detective” whose psychotic visions enable him to solve crimes. Inspector Bun (Lau) puts himself in the victim’s place, literally, to find criminals; whether zipping himself into a suitcase and being tossed down the stairs or repeatedly stabbing a dead pig, he’s rather unorthodox, yet successful. Years later, Bun has retired, but a new case emerges that requires his unique gifts. Bun’s hallucinations provide perfect excuses for To’s visual inventions and madcap stagings, most notably Bun’s multiple personalities that are pictured as actual separate characters. Part police thriller, part surrealistic black comedy, with an homage to Welles’s Lady from Shanghai mixed in, Mad Detective “reaffirms To’s status as an action master” (Manohla Dargis, New York Times).

• Written by Wai, Au Kin-yee. Photographed by Cheng Siu-keung. With Lau Ching-wan, Andy On, Gordon Lam, Kelly Lin. (90 mins, In Cantonese with English subtitles, Color, DigiBeta, From IFC Films)