VIFF 2011 Reviews: Life without Principle; Headshot; Target.


Life without Principle. Hong Kong, 107 min.

This is one of those film festival surprise gems. In the midst of a stock market crash, a struggling investment banker tries to sell stocks to Hong Kong investors — including a loan shark who withdraws ten million dollars just before being murdered in the bank parkade. Meanwhile police Inspector Chiang weighs the advantages of buying a condo — while tracking down a gang of violent criminals. Meanwhile, a petty gangster roams Hong Kong trying to raise bail for his fellow gang member. Meanwhile, Chiang’s wife . . . . Well, everything coalesces eventually and the good guys walk off with the money. Lots of fun.
Headshot. Thailand, 105 min.

This thriller by Pen-ek Ratanaruang (the director of the excellent 6ixty-nin9 (VIFF ’99) and the appalling Nymph (VIFF ’09)) tracks the life of a cop turned assassin turned Buddhist monk. There’s a coherent, tight film in here, but it will take a good editor to trim the excess and make sense of the flash-backs.
Target. Russia, 154 min.

First, the Mcguffin. It’s 2020 and somewhere in the remote steppes of Russia a gigantic metal target is set in the ground, presumably the remnant of a secret astrophysical lab. The legend is that those who spend a night in the pit that forms the centre will become immortal. Now, the drama. We follow a group of privileged Muscovites as they return from their miracle night and adjust to their new-found youth. Unfortunately, the Target has not only failed to cure their deficiencies, it has magnified them. There’s more to this long, talky demanding film than a single viewing will reveal. Muster your stamina; or flip off the whole enterprise.

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About aharmlessdrudge

Way back during the late Bronze age -- actually it was the 1950s -- all of us in high school had to take a vocational test to determine our interests and, supposedly, our future careers. I cannot remember the outcome, but I do recall one question that gave me pause. "If you were to win a Nobel prize, would it be in literature or in physics?" I hesitated over the question: although I enjoyed mathematics and science more than English class, I did have a couple of unfinished (and very bad) novels hidden away at home. I cannot remember what I chose back then, but the dilemma followed me to university, where I switched from mathematics to English and -- after a five-year stint in journalism -- back to mathematics. I recently retired as a professor of statistics. Retirement. What a good chance to revive my literary ambitions. I have finished a novel -- more about that in good time -- and a rubble of drafts of articles about mathematics and statistics is taking up space on my hard disk.
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