Sunday, October 14, 2012

Swiss Mister: "Soundless Wind Chime" (2010)

A dreamlike filmed meditation grounded in the real world, "Soundless Wind Chime" eventually answers all the viewers' questions while testing their patience.

Ricky (Lu Yulai) works a dead-end job in a Hong Kong restaurant and lives with his crude prostitute aunt (Wella Zhang). Ricky's pocket is picked by Pascal (Bernhard Bulling), a Swiss national with problems of his own. He is regularly beaten by his lover, Marcus (Hannes Lindenblatt), who feels he is entitled to sex anytime, as well. Pascal finally leaves Marcus, meets Ricky by chance, and the two strike up a very quick romance on their own, moving into what seems like Hong Kong's tiniest apartment together.

Pascal entertains Ricky's coworkers, and gets a job at a kindergarten while Ricky must often leave for Beijing to care for his dying mother. The couple get along well, although Pascal begins playing the field, angering Ricky. Maybe this rebound relationship isn't as permanent as it first seemed. The main story of the film is mirrored by Ricky's trip to Pascal's Switzerland, where he meets Ueli (also Bernhard Bulling), a shop owner. Why Ricky is in Switzerland, and the meaning of the title, are eventually explained.

This is Kit Hung's first film, and it does frustrate at the outset. Hung demands that the viewer keep his opening images in their head, and even then, I wasn't entirely satisfied by his ending explanations, or lack thereof. Ricky and Pascal's affair seems pat (they climb into bed together almost instantaneously), and I found my interest drifting more to Ricky and Ueli in Switzerland (again, which plays a secondary plot role).

I would recommend the film however, based on Hung's masterly direction. Being in such close quarters, he must go hand-held many times, but he never tries to be documentary-like. No fakey zooms, no blurred images (except when they are meant to be), and so I could concentrate on the story and amazing performances. While the character of Ricky seems a bit shallow, Yulai is excellent in the role. Bulling is also great, making Pascal and Ueli separate people (or are they?), and both leads deserve praise. The juxtaposition between the cramped Hong Kong interiors and the luscious Swiss countryside is beautiful to look at.

"Soundless Wind Chime" does unsuccessfully try to be avant-garde here and there (the "Gesundheit" song number out of nowhere), but Hung held my attention, as did the two leads. I recommend it. (* * * *) out of five stars.