Anna & Anna (2007)
Directed by: Aubrey Lam
Aubrey Lam made the statement with her second movie Hidden Track that she was going to mix up reality however she pleases. Good for her but she's not knocked one out of the ballpark yet but as a filmmaker of talent (as well as writing talent) and clearly mature ideas, she has earned the status to keep trying to break out. So Anna & Anna comes along, with a doppelganger concept (two Karena Lam's... awesome!) and a web of subtle emotions on display but it's still kind of strike three for Lam.
But we like any movie that doesn't do its business with one eye closed and the genre-tease Lam puts in our laps certainly intrigues. The opening swimming sequence punches in to echo supernatural- or horror sensibilities. As I said, Hidden Track went its own surreal routes. Hence it making sense Aubrey would continue to ride this filmmaking wave. But the web of mystery surrounding the two Karena Lam's ultimately build up rather nicely into let's say a 250 piece jigsaw puzzle but is missing a good 50 piece chunk to fully become clear.
Admittedly these pieces are laid out one by one quite skillfully as we experience the respective surroundings of the Anna's played by Karena Lam (the twin in the village setting still uses her Chinese name only, Mok Si Yu) in a state of coldness and emotions are frozen as well. Coming from Singapore to Shanghai for work, city Anna if you will favours career instead of emotions and have clearly shook up aspiring musician Billy (Tender Huang) to the point where he feels disillusioned about love. Treated without tenderness or sweetness, Anna does not violently scar him but that's not necessary to create wounds.
On the rural Mainland side, matters are zombified almost as Si Yu's relationship with Ouyang (Li Yi) is wearing thin. Ouyang suffers from depression and Si Yu's attempts to mend matters, to push her own artistry, to push Ouyang's artistry (he played piano once), go by unnoticed. When the two identical women eventually meet after a mixup of orders at an art gallery, through research they come to the conclusion that they're possibly doppelgangers. They recognize as well as share memories and figures out that this split of one person might mean that one could vanish altogether soon. One of the main things they share is a past love of Ouyang and a 3 day switch is agreed upon as Anna wants to experience the closeness of Ouyang again while Si Yu gets a break from all her attempts to find a workable nature to that relationship...
Some weird writing passages and odd behaviour from characters doesn't exactly go on to make sense once more pieces are added to the puzzle. But there is a confidence on display by director Lam to push for a fragmented narrative, a mystery and the way she has characters deal with past emotions related to relationships. And no one should mind the challenge and by all means questions put forth are clear as the switch occurs. The Anna's are potentially getting an easy way out of an unexamined life, potentially throwing away one that has not been given a chance and as much emotions as they've dealt with, an inner examination and dialogue with their respective selves is what they're actually trying to avoid.
There is a moral to the story somewhere present but when Aubrey Lam ties it all up, the jumps in the timeline starts to make no sense and this viewer anyway couldn't juggle the lives and emotions of the Anna's therefore. Problem with all of this, as opposed to Wong Kar-Wai's Ashes Of Time (an unrelated but complex masterpiece of a movie), is Anna & Anna doesn't provide an invite back to explore more. Perhaps Aubrey Lam is too clever for cinema now because she can't translate the coherency needed to take along even educated viewers on a mystery trip. As I said, she's not by her third movie now ejected from the scene but instead given another pat on the pack of encouragement. This time however, the lives on display didn't come to life.
The DVD (Deltamac):
As of this review I'm skipping certain aspects such as reviewing the transfer as I feel I'm not able to provide a sufficient judgment on it.
Video: 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen.
Audio: Mandarin (original language) Dolby-EX 6.1, Mandarin DTS-ES 6.1 and Cantonese Dolby-EX 6.1.
Subtitles: English (I counted one spelling error and the translation is otherwise coherent and well-worded on the whole) and traditional Chinese.
Extras: The Making Of Anna & Anna (6 minutes, 52 seconds and with the same subtitle options as the feature). Following the standard format mostly, there are worthwhile looks into Karena Lam's preparation and the difficulty of shooting her scenes involving the doppelganger special effects and the trailer.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson