Just as a heads up, over the next week-plus I’ll be doing a lot of coverage for ShockYa of the independent-minded Dances With Films festival, which kicks off its 14th year tomorrow night. A lot of it will link from here, but by all means keep checking in over at ShockYa, and/or check out the festival itself.
There’s a special type of moviegoing misery to be found in self-important period pieces, and that’s just the sort of screaming boredom that Empire of Silver, the nearly impenetrable, emotionally arrested feature film debut of essayist and playwright Christina Yao, delivers.
A drama focused on a powerful banking family in the late imperial/early Republican era of China, the movie rather gorgeously establishes its setting, but never locates a single compelling character or imparts any sense or sort of reality of what its subjects’ lives must truly have been like. The monkish lifestyles forced upon the mid-level financial managers that populate the movie’s telling of a son’s attempts to follow in his father’s business footsteps would seem to offer up a world of rich contrast and resentment, compared to the more lavish ruling class. But Yao never exploits this, and with the minor exception of Tielin Zhang, the acting here is all so wooden as to invite unfavorable comparison to a collection of popsicle sticks. For the full, original review, from ShockYa, click here. (NeoClassics Films, unrated, 112 minutes)