Great Buddha+, The (2017)

Review #1,578

Director:  Huang Hsin-yao
Cast:  Cres Chuang, Bamboo Chen, Leon Dai, Chang Shao-Huai, Ting Kuo-Lin
Plot:  Pickle is a night security guard at a bronze statue factory.  His friend, Belly Bottom, works as a recycling collector during the day.  Having late night snacks and watching television are an integral part of their dull lives.  One day when the television is broken, their lives are changed forever. 

Genre:  Drama / Comedy
Awards:  Won NETPAC Award (Toronto).  Won 5 Golden Horses - Best New Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best Original Song.  Nom. for 5 Golden Horses - Best Feature, Best Supporting Actor, Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction, Best Sound Effects
Runtime:  102 mins
Rating:  M18 (passed clean) for coarse language and sexual content
International Sales:  MandarinVision

Coming short of a Best Feature win at the 2017 Golden Horse Awards, with the big prize eventually going to The Bold, the Corrupt, and the Beautiful, The Great Buddha+, however, snagged five other awards, including Best New Director and Best Adapted Screenplay for Huang Hsin-yao.  Why it is considered a work of adaptation is because, like a number of filmmakers starting out, they tend to remake and expand a beloved short of theirs that initially made waves into a full-blown feature.  

Recent examples include Oh Lucy! (2017) by Atsuko Hirayanagi, and Custody (2017) by Xavier Legrand.  Huang’s The Great Buddha+ takes the main idea of his short film and develops it into a striking work that is both dark and funny.  

Bamboo Chen plays Belly Bottom, a recycling collector who struggles to earn a living.  His friend, Pickle (Cres Chuang), is a security guard at a bronze statue factory.  In the dead of night, Belly Bottom would sneak in to accompany Pickle, sometimes bringing over whatever leftover supper he could find.  One night, a sneaky thought is sparked: where does Pickle’s boss drive to everyday?  

Secretly retrieving the storage card from the in-car camera, they entertain themselves through the night with footage of the roads, accompanied by sounds within the car, and arousing themselves with ‘special noises’.  The two leads’ performances are spot-on, finding rare chemistry in each other that translates into an awkwardly comic relationship.  

But Huang’s film moves into darker territory in the second-half when they discover something sinister in one of their nightly exploits.  To say anything more would be to spoil the movie, so I leave you to enjoy this Taiwanese film on your own terms.  Backed by polished black-and-white cinematography (shot by Chung Mong-Hong, the acclaimed director of The Fourth Portrait (2010) and Godspeed (2016)), which also won a Golden Horse, The Great Buddha+ is a tale of fates and destinies in a world of sins and desires.  

In the middle of it is a statue of the Buddha, seemingly caught in the state of flux—quite literally as the factory workers attempt to complete the sculpture in time for a religious ceremony, but also metaphorically if one could presume that the great deity would be befuddled, amused and shocked by the events in the film.   While not always consistently-paced, I must applaud the film’s coda, which is as satisfying as it is startling to behold.   

Verdict:  A striking, darkly-comic Taiwanese feature debut that tells of fates and destinies of mortals in a world of sins and desires.





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