Phantom of Snake
What an odd and unusual film this is. Its hard
to know what to make of it it is very slow and somewhat muddled and
always murky - but it has a certain hypnotic quality to it almost like
a cobra staring down its prey. Though it may sound pretentious it reminded
me of a minimalist tone poem where the repetitive nature of the film
eventually begins to create a mood and a rhythm all of its own a low
budget cinematic Gorecki. And by low budget I mean low budget how much
the darkness of the scenes was due to trying to create a mood or simply
because they could not afford good lighting or shooting in the daytime
is up in the air.
Under the guise of being a horror film, this came
and went in HK without a whimper but it is worth more than that though
exactly what I am not sure. If this was a US film, it would have all the
trappings of becoming a cult film but in HK it is likely headed for oblivion.
I couldnt honestly recommend this film to anyone its just too weird
and my guess is that most people would hate it but of the people I
saw it with it got a thumbs up from all and Tim also gives it a positive
review at his site Another Hong Kong Movie Page.
Cecilia Yip (Peace Hotel in a very rare appearance
these days) and Jade Leung are sisters and they wander through the smoky
bars and shadowy streets of Hong Kong in search of Cecilia Yips lover
who has gone missing. What an eccentric pair they make dressed in high
fashion and high heels bedecked with large feathery boas sparkles dusting
their face and a walk that is half wriggle, half drunken sailor as one
footstep crosses over the other. When they are alone together they rub
up against one another emit sounds of gasping and humming and stare
unblinkingly at the world passing by. These are clearly two women uneasy
in their human skin.
That would be due to the fact that they are in
fact snakes taking human form in their search for Cecilas lover. They
are hundreds of years old and they fear that brother-in-law as he is
referred to has taken on human form to such an extent that he has forgotten
his snake origins. They need to find him before it is too late but a
cop (Jimmy Wong) investigating a number of deaths from mysterious snakebites
is suspicious of their behavior and trying to keep tabs on them. Michael
Tong plays the snake expert who just happens to be at the scene of one
of the murders and comes under suspicion as well. It all plays out almost
in eerie slow motion whenever you think something is going to happen
it evaporates before you and in the end you are left with only peculiar
memories of a film that unfolds like a forgotten dream.
The soundtrack that accompanies these odd happenings
is simply brilliant again minimalist in nature - full of drones, wobbles
and wails with a definite homage to the alien films of the 1950s. That
music that always signified an alien life force nearby is heard constantly
in this film.
This theme is of course a modern (and again
I stress low budget) updating of the Chinese legend of the White Snake.
It tells the tale of a snake that wants to live among humans and has
been told in a number of films from the classic Green Snake to the Brigitte
Lin film Love of the White Snake.
The main pleasure from this film and it should
not pass unnoticed is just how wonderful it is to watch both Cecilia and
Jade do their snake thing. They dont play it cute or sexy but ominous
and straightforward and they are simply fabulous to watch. I never tired
of them doing that snake shuffle. One scene in particular was truly kind
of neat. The two of them are walking up a Mid level street whoozing back
and forth suddenly surrounding men on the street and scuttling up to
them. I really got the sense that none of this was planned and that the
participants had no idea what was going on and just thought these were
two crazy ladies who had drank way too much.
My rating for this film: 7.0