Tuesday, March 04, 2008

One Foot Off the Ground (Ji Quan Bu Ning / 鸡犬不宁)

Hello Chicken?

I didn't really know what to make of One Foot Off the Ground. As it twists and turns in and around its dizzying myriad of characters and the lives, it's easy to get lost, and those without patience would find themselves tempted to walk out of the cinema hall. The payload only gets delivered from the midway mark, as writer-director Chen Daming takes his time to set up each subplot, before developing them richly into satisfying conclusions.

The tale opens with an opera troupe performing its last act, because its director had lost their funding in an accident. As such, the troupe temporarily disbands, and we fast forward three months later, to be introduced to individual characters, their current lives and the little episodes that happen to them in order to spice the movie to feature length duration. And very early on, you start to wonder just where these stories are heading toward.

You have Ma San (Li Yixiang) and his participation in underground cock fights, whose wife is contemplating going to France to set up a Chinese restaurant. There's Sihai (Jin Hong) who doctors the dogs he sells to pass them off as another pedigree, and there's Liu Bing (Yao Lu) who runs a photo studio and develops the hots for a young model. These are just some of the lead characters, and there are plenty more supporting ones like the old master of the opera training school who's looking for a companion, and a sleazy film scout who calls himself F4.

And for a film without any recognizable big names, it relied heavily on the delivery of the cast to engage the audience with its earnest scenes, some which are comedic, and some others heavy on the drama. But for the most parts, it was the little moments that bring out little joys while sitting through it. There aren't any large scenes or sudden great leap forward plot development, and I was quite tickled with the plot element of a money bag making its rounds and adding confusion and suspicion on the characters that happen to stumble upon it.

If I could summarize this movie in a line, then it would be "nothing fancy, but it works".

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