Next up on our world travels courtesy of Fantasia is Hong Kong. Free and Easy, directed by Jun Ceng (Youth), is the story of a travelling soap salesman and his effect upon a largely deserted Chinese town. A crime happens and the town’s residents begin turning on one another. Is is a drama? Is it a comedy? Even after watching it I am not quite sure.
The travelling soap salesman (Ziyong Zhang – Blood Brothers) is not the only thing happening in this gloomy town. A (fake) monk (Gang Xu), who turns out to also be a con man, is dealing with solidarity. A forest ranger (Baohe Xue) is trying to catch some tree thieves. Then a murder happens with has the residents of the town looking sideways at each other suspiciously. Suddenly this is not such a sleepy hamlet.
Due to the incompetence of the two police officers (Xun Zhang and Liguo Yuan), one who is always attempting to sexually assault the forest ranger’s wife (Xuxu Wang), there is not much hope that any of the criminals are going to get their due.
Absurd is the most accurate way to describe the goings on here. The soap salesman, who is actually a thief, has bars of soap that once you smell them you fall unconscious. At several moments during this film I felt a little unconscious. The pacing is so slow and tedious that I had trouble keeping focused.
Comedy here is definitely left of center and sometimes its oddness is lost within the slow nature of the story.
The existential meaningless nature of life has been done better in other films. So has the satirical look at those in authority. Is this how Chinese citizens really see democracy? Am I just not getting what Geng is trying to get across. Has the slow pace numbed my brain?
A highlight here is the cinematography. Despite the worn down derelict architecture of the town, the greyness of the sky and the unkempt nature of the residents it still manages to look beautiful or at least eye catching in many of the scenes.
Then there is the nothing ending. I mean, it does not really end. It just fades out without any resolution of any sorts and then the credits start rolling.