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Simon Read [Film Festival 07.13.12] Hong Kong drama experimental

No .. more .. ratings.

Described thusly in the EIFF programme: "An atmospheric mix of lo-fi science-fiction, glam inspired rock music and Zeitgeist immersed comedy drama... with newscasts announcing that the end of the world is imminent... two slackers decide that it's time to take action." When I read this my socks flew off my feet and out of the window. I circled the entry and made sure to clear my schedule for the press screening. It wasn't what I was anticipating, but it's a pretty trippy oddity and on the whole I'm glad I made some time for it, even if I can't honestly recommend it to anyone except perhaps genre freaks, stoners and fans of Richard Kelly's 'Southland Tales'.

Young Dudes is a strange little Taiwanese sci-fi blip which plays out much more like an experimental feature length music video than an apocalyptic adventure, and in this sense it was quite a disappointment. The story, such as it is, concerns a wannabe rocker named Adam who begins the film narrating over Shostakovich's Jazz Suite No. 2: VI. Waltz 2, (better known as 'that tune from Eyes Wide Shut') letting us know that the year 2012 is an Important Year and not much else. Adam visits his friend Guy who teaches woodshop at a local school and insists they prepare for the end of the world by building a virtual ark in his apartment and collecting animals; broadcasting their plan on the Internet and performing media stunts to draw people's attention to their cause. The ark is going to be a time-machine too, and he calls it KLAATU, and the ark is actually just his apartment but decorated with funky decor... If this is beginning to sound faintly ridiculous then brace yourselves, it just gets sillier.

The guys visit a nightclub and meet a feisty Russian girl named Adele, who nicknames them Michael and Jackson and agrees to help out on-board KLAATU (which is an apartment) and the group make web videos and perform stunts which miraculously attract the attention of the entire world media and soon the whole planet is chanting for Mickey and Jackie as they dance around on podiums waving flags. At some point during all of this Adam/Mickey falls through a hole in space-time and is chased around a city industrial estate by aliens who resemble men in long coats with flashlights, which put me in mind of a live action version of the A-HA video for Take On Me. Adam has various mind-bending encounters while zipping around eclectic set-pieces until he gets bored and shouts, "Home! Free will!" at which point a red button appears and whisks him away to the countryside. During all of this indie-rock songs which I'd never heard before but which acted as a fitting soundtrack play over the scenes of action; scenes which are all very colourful but pretty empty. There's a whole bunch of pseudo philosophical meandering and discussions on the minutiae of modern life, and news footage prophesying the end of times punctuating events, but it doesn't seem to directly impact what our heroes (for lack of a better term) are actually trying to accomplish, and so the film just becomes one long series of misfiring moments which look great but feel very much like a video-art project made by a Bret Easton Ellis character at Camden, or Nathan Barley.

I actually kept expecting this to happen: (SFW)

"Young Dudes" is a total mess of a film and in the end it has nothing to tether it to reality; no narrative, no characterization nor message (beyond the don't-worry-be-happy vibe) and as the film wraps up and we're treated to an outdoor concert featuring a lyricless recital of the David Bowie track for which it's named, I was ready to move on and forget about this one. It stayed with me despite my efforts though, and I can kind of see that director DJ Chen just wanted to make a festival-friendly hallucinogenic free for all, but if it wasn't for my personal interest in space oddities, grand failures and groovy tunes I'd have left just like half the press audience did. At the end of the film during the big concert scene Adam asks Guy, "Did the world end?" and Guy sums up the film well with his bemused response, "I don't know." Keep watching the stars, I guess.

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