October 09, 2005

Caché (Hidden) / Citizen Dog

Reviewed by Martin Tsai at the 24th Vancouver International Film Festival

Before you die, you’ll watch the tape: Michael Haneke’s Hidden actually plays out like a J-horror film. It indeed bares staples of the auteur’s domestic horror library such as alienation, a threatened household, familial guilt and audiovisual technology. He puts yet another couple named Anne and Georges (Juliette Binoche, Daniel Auteuil) to the test when a series of surveillance tapes filmed right outside their home and creepy childish drawings show up inexplicably on their doorstep. This time Haneke uncharacteristically builds up the atmospheric menace at length before suddenly striking with single unexpected and climactic act of extreme violence (which elicited an audible collective gasp from the fest goers). The narrative strategy immediately recalls Audition, although the supernatural Ringu also comes to mind for the videocassette connection. Leaving much of its mystery unresolved, Hidden haunts viewers like a J-horror classic would.

Wisit Sasanatieng’s whimsical fable-like musical romance Citizen Dog has invited many Amélie comparisons. Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s international hit is vigorously cutesy at best, and it doesn’t come close to capturing the kind of genuinely inspired and beguiling magic seen in Sasanatieng’s sophomore feature. Making over Bangkok with the same hyper neon colour scheme seen in the director’s Tears of the Black Tiger, the film involves an introvert with a severed index finger, a compulsive-obsessive fixated on environmental activism, a chain-smoking 22-year-old who looks to be about seven, a talking stuffed bear, a zombie motorcycle taxi driver and a pair of lovers fetishizing over packed-sardines bus rides. It’s unfortunate that the film’s Thai origin might compel Western viewers to dismiss its quirkiness as eccentricity, effectively confining the film to the festival and arthouse ghetto and barring it from reaching an Amélie-size audience. Then again, Sasanatieng might already be a household name here if Miramax had bothered to release Tears of the Black Tiger.

© Copyright 2005 Martin Tsai. All rights reserved.