KVIFF 2017 – review – FREE AND EASY (“Qing song jia yu kuai,” Jun Geng, 2016, Hong Kong)

Free and Easy posterJun Geng’s latest film, Free and Easy, was presented in the official selection (out of competition) at the 52nd Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. It tells the story of the interconnecting lives of a group of colourful crooks and pathetic good-for-nothings against the backdrop of a grey rapidly decaying post-industrial Chinese town. The cast of characters include, for instance, a door-to-door soap salesman, two inept policemen, a fake Hindu cop, and more.

When I spoke to Jun Geng in Karlovy Vary, he told me that Free and Easy represents his second creative wave – a style of film that contrasts his earlier and more realist style. The film, in fact, moves along at a slow but consistent pace, dictated by the surprising but inevitable ways in which these characters meet. While there is a considerable coating of surrealism to be found, Free and Easy is also considerably laced with a dark humour that makes for a satirical take on, yes, post-industrial China, but more importantly on the universal theme of the shaky grounds on which human and political morality rests.

The acting is stony, line-delivery purposefully sluggish. Free and Easy is deadpan at its most deadpan. The silences are as important as the language, especially when filled by a perceptive viewer’s thoughts and awkwardness. The deceit, in the end, lies more in the overall vision of Free and Easy than in the tortuous or half improvised schemes of its cast of shady imbeciles. While we giggle and smile, Free and Easy contains elements of thievery, bribery and, in a scene, even rape (the victim of which is the only female character to be found in the entire movie). The world of Free and Easy is

The world of Free and Easy is composed by those who lie, steal, and deceive and those who are lied to, stolen from, and deceived. The destruction that surrounds the characters of Free and Easy seems to inspire a primitive structure of society that is almost refreshing: it is, in fact, far more simple and earthy than that which was constructed by the political bureaucracy that, we imagined, erected the fabric and architecture that is crumbling to dust all around our anti-heroes. – ★★★★

QING SONG JIA YU KUAI || 2016, Hong Kong || Comedy || Directed by – Jun Geng / Produced by – Wang Zijian, Wang Xuebo, Xie Meng / Written by – Liu Bing, Feng Yu hua, Jun Geng / Cinematography – Wang Weihua / Edited by – Guo Xiaodong, Zhong Yijuan / Starring – Xu Gang, Zhang Zhiyong, Xue Baohe, Wang Xuxu, Gu Benbin, Zhang Xun, Yuan Liguo / Running time: 98 mins.

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