Sunday, February 01, 2015

Film Chinois

The concept of Film Chinois, by Damon Chua, is a good one: noir goings-on in 1947 China, with a femme fatale who also happens to be a Maoist revolutionary. The writing is smart, with knowing winks at The Big Sleep and other classics, and an interesting attempt to marry overt politics with traditional fictional cynicism. Some of the performers are excellent, in particular Rosanne Ma, as the narrator and femme fatale, and Jean Brassard, as the knowing Belgium ambassador who may not know as much as he thinks he does. The scenery, costumes, lighting, and sound (by Sheryl Liu, Carol A. Pelletier, Marie Yokoyama, and Ian Wehrle, respectively) add exactly the right sense of atmosphere and foreboding. These are the makings of an excellent show.

On the other hand, the writing can be murky, and it's hard to know--or care--exactly what's going on. Some of the acting misses the boat; it's fascinating how thin the line is between deadpan and lackluster. Most importantly, the direction, by Kaipo Schwab, lacks the pacing, energy, and spark needed to ignite the proceedings.

There is enough worthwhile here to keep the audience rooting for the show to get really good, but it never quite does.

(press ticket, 5th row)

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