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The Auteurs Daily: Venice and Toronto. Accident

 

The Auteurs Daily

Accident

Dave Kehr, who's serving on the Persol 3-D Award Jury in Venice, has posted a quick rundown of the highs and lows of the Competition so far and the first highlight he mentions is Accident, "a moody thriller from Johnny To's Milky Way productions directed by Soi Cheang."

"With its high concept of a bunch of assassins who disguise their kills as accidents, the pic is the ultimate demonstration of To's favorite mantra for his own films: 'Expect the unexpected.' Derek Elley in Variety: "Accident takes that idea one step further by making the killers themselves victims of accidental (or maybe not) forces. With its twisting plot and multiple betrayals (perceived or otherwise), plus regular To actors and technicians, the movie has the strong imprint of a Milkyway production, even though it's a totally gun-free zone. There are few traces of Cheang's wild early works (Diamond Hill, Horror Hotline... Big Head Monster) or his recent over-the-top actioners (Dog Bite Dog, Shamo), but the pic does have its own signature in its noirish, jazzy interludes and the main character's growing paranoia."

Shane Danielsen, writing for indieWIRE, admires the "ravishing cinematography (take a bow, Yuen Man Fung), meticulous production design, and a sparse, effective score, by Xavier Jamaux, that managed to be elegiac without indulging the Asian penchant for sickly sentiment." Accident "is far from a typical Hong Kong shoot-'em-up. Eager to ignore the cliches of hitman flicks, screenwriters Kam-Yuen Szeto and Lik-Kei Tang instead extend meticulous chains of cause and effect, with sequences playing out in extended, mostly wordless passages (the film's sound design is extraordinary), in which flurries of movement alternate with long stretches of watchful stillness. Watching, I was reminded of Jose Luis Guerin's In the City of Sylvia, of all things - though its final act tips its hat to another, more obvious antecedent: Coppola's The Conversation, and Harry Caul's descent into paranoia as he realises that he himself has been bugged."

"Running to a snappy 86 minutes, Accident is anchored by its three [main set] pieces and easily the most impressive is the opener," notes Fionnuala Halligan in Screen.

The AP's Colleen Barry has notes from the press conference.

Update, 9/8: Natasha Senjanovic has a brief, generally positive review in the Hollywood Reporter.

Update, 9/9: "Accident is a carefully assembled, effectively executed and quietly successful little film that manages to mostly silence the concerns over its lengthy gestation period and emerge as one of the more interesting Hong Kong films of this year," writes James Marsh at Twitch.

Update, 9/19: "Most interesting about Accident is its depiction of urban space," finds Filmmaker's Scott Macaulay. "Chiang wields his camera like a scalpel, cutting the city into a series of tightly composed fragments. His shot construction underscores the idea that the city is not a unified place, an environment housing a community, but simply a latticework of dangers signifying our own mortality."

Update, 9/22: "What Accident loses in the scavenger-like need to survive featured in so many of Cheang's best films it gains in a serene, slick calm," writes Daniel Kasman. "To and Wai Ka-fai's Vengeance is making the headlines with its big-name French star and direct allusions to Jean-Pierre Melville's Le samouraï, but it is Cheang's film that has deeply ingrained the distanced chill of 1970s quasi-art house genre cinema like Coppola's The Conversation and Melville's work."

Update, 10/3: "As much as Accident remains suggestively open ended and enigmatic in the particulars," writes Patrick Z McGavin, "it offers a stimulating and quite provocative visual essay on the velvety night textures and existential despair typical of Hong Kong's architecture, streets and byways. It offers one beguiling and fascinating instance of people lost in space. Accident is a work haunted by absence, permeated by its own melancholia and remembrance of things past."

TIFF 09: Index; full coverage; lineup.

 

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