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Soundless Wind Chime

Soundless Wind Chime     Soundless Wind Chime

(left) Lu Yulai embraces Bernhard Bulling, and (right) Lu and Bulling sleep it off in Soundless Wind Chime.



Year: 2009  
Director: Kit Hung
Producer: Jacqueline Liu, Kit Hung, Min Li Marti, Liliane Ott, Philip delaquis, Stefan Zuber
Writer: Kit Hung
Cast: Lu Yulai, Bernhard Bulling, Wong Siu-Ying, Lee Fung, Wella Zhang, Hannes Lindenblatt, Gilles Tschudi, Ruth Schwegler
The Skinny: This stylish and self indulgent gay drama is well meaning, but attempts far more than it actually accomplishes. Still likely to find fans on the fest circuit, Soundless Wind Chime is a promising yet flawed feature debut from director Kit Hung.
by Kozo:

A promising but flawed effort from first-time feature film director Kit Hung, Soundless Wind Chime is an ambitious gay-themed film that's hampered by a self-conscious style and the director's own personal indulgence. The narrative is largely based on Hung's experiences, which lends the proceedings a weight that may not be evident to the casual viewer. The film's twists and turns, symbols and details are all vital and personal to Hung, but can he convey that meaning to his audience? When he can, Soundless Wind Chime achieves some feeling. When he can't, however, the film stalls and even frustrates, ultimately accomplishing less than it tries to.

Handsome Lu Yulai stars as Ricky, a Beijing immigrant who lives in Hong Kong with his prostitute aunt (Wella Zhang) and works in a local café. After a rocky start, he meets and forms a relationship with Pascal (Bernhard Bulling), a visiting Swiss grifter who uses his European status to his advantage. The two are initially enamored of one another, but begin to butt heads over their differences – pride, independence, not to mention their differing attitudes towards Hong Kong's thriving gay culture. Before the two can truly reconcile their relationship, Pascal suddenly leaves. To heal his hurt, Ricky journeys to Switzerland where he meets Ueli (Bernhard Bulling again), an antique store clerk who curiously looks just like Pascal. Further connection is made, though perhaps not romantic, and Ricky's struggle with love and loss inches ever towards closure. Maybe. To be honest, it's hard to really tell.

Cinema readers have plenty to work with here; there's a lot going on beneath Soundless Wind Chime's stylish, deliberately arty surface. Both Ricky and Pascal are immigrants making their way among Hong Kong's teeming streets, experiencing cruelty and chance connection, with the push-and-pull of their love (or maybe just lust) driving the film's emotions. However, the emotions are not acute, unlike in Wong Kar-Wai's Happy Together (which, given the film's style and character dynamic, may be one of Kit Hung's influences), and instead are conveyed to the audience through lingering mood and a time-shifting narrative that's sometimes difficult to follow. There are also some unexplained surreal moments and a lot of silent navel-gazing, neither of which explicate matters. Audiences looking for a solid narrative will be put out, but those who find a connection to Hung's situations and characters may find themselves involved in his dream-like vision.

Helping matters is the film's artifice. Hung creates immediacy with his active camerawork, and does a fine job of presenting his settings cinematically. Much about Soundless Wind Chime screams "art film", from its long takes and generous, objectified art direction to the actors' soulful, underplayed performances. This is an exceptionally film fest-friendly work, carrying the pretension of art along with many of the superficial accoutrements. However, the emotions in Soundless Wind Chime remain largely buried, with explication necessary in order to gleam more than scattered pieces of meaning. The actors do a decent job, but aren't given enough to work with, settling too much on apparent sadness and introspection. They do make a fine pair to look at, so some members of the audience may be satisfied. However, only reaching a portion of the audience is not the usual definition of a successful work.

Despite tapping into some identifiable emotions, Hung never gets his characters to truly click. Both Ricky and Pascal remain rather distant, their emotions understood mostly silently, with little discovery or identification found through their actions. The dreamlike atmosphere is diverting but also obviously deliberate; by Hung's own admission, his choice of style is meant to convey the feeling of memory. However, whose memory is this? Probably Kit Hung's, as there are many details and ideas that clearly have a meaning to him, but perhaps not to his audience. The film explores universal concepts of grief and disaffection, but the characters and details are too often left frustratingly unexplained, becoming puzzling or even mystifying in their use. Despite having something to say, Hung's intentions are too unfocused, and aren't bridged to the audience effectively enough to raise the film to an accomplished level. Ultimately, it's the filmmaker who'll probably get the most out of Soundless Wind Chime, and not his audience. (Kozo, reviewed at the Hong Kong International Film Festival, 2009)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Panorama Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Original Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
Various Extras
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc

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