The Goddess Of 1967 (2000)
Directed by: Clara Law
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Before leaving Hong Kong for Australia (1*) Clara Law managed to leave an impression of a fine filmmaker with versatility. Not that her fairly sparse filmography is of one-note (the theme of immigration pops up more often than not however) but turning to concrete art via Autumn Moon, depth within the Wuxia genre in the form of Temptation Of A Monk (both receiving a Category III rating for more valid, narrative-wise, reasons), that's a high to go out on. And so she did together with partner Eddie Fong (2*), to Australia. Her second movie down under after Floating Life (1996), The Goddess Of 1967 should come with a sense of familiarity for whoever followed Law's last Hong Kong output. Not many immigration notions expressed concretely are present but rather a vivid cinematic sense. A cinematic sense that knows it's allowed to have an imagination, a real, human journey and any sense of humour or mood it likes. You COULD connect it back to Hong Kong cinema therefore but this is cinema immigration to a completely different landscape and boy was Australia the right goal of travel for Clara Law and Eddie Fong
A Japanese man (Rikiya Kurokawa) looks for a particular brand of Citroën and the car of his dreams, the titular goddess of 1967 is located in Australia. Arriving to pay in cash, he finds a blind girl (Ross Byrne), a young child, the brains of the goddess seller and wife splattered all over the house. Explaining that they fought over the money JM (as the credits suitably names him) was going to bring, he maintains his focus and asks to see where the car is. In perfect condition, the actual owners are a 5 day road trip away and the unlikely couple set out on a trip that has been a journey waiting to happen, especially for BG...
Much is a challenge to us and Clara Law we sense early. A challenge in the same way Autumn Moon was by throwing sounds and sights at us that usually signals a lazy art house director at work. But Law knows she can prove herself worthy and has. Therefore we are on board with deciphering the images of a noisy, urban Tokyo and the way JM has built himself his bubble of a world, mostly containing pet snakes. Also, he's so sheltered a little playtime with diving gear isn't out of the ordinary at all. That latter description is perhaps the biggest challenge Clara throws at us. Because the intent is to play with the combination of cinema and imagination, meaning anything can happen, anything can be said and the end tally containing all those anything's are as valid as anything. Especially on a realistic, human level. Yet, Law delights early on in the off-beat and wacky, playing with at least 20 music cues for her comedic bits early in the film.
But the keen hypnotic sense to Dion Bebbe's cinematography gets equally eerie and simple for whatever story beats Law and her long time partner Eddie Fong injects. The film obviously has a sense of mystery, weirdness, surrealism but ultimately the structure is about untangling, especially BG's journey. While taking us to fairly recent and childhood flashbacks, the titular car has been around its share of darkness and while not symbolizing a curse, there's probably some relief present that it might go away soon.
Throughout we are a bit puzzled here and there but being in Law's hands as a busy, cinematic storyteller feels very secure despite. As mentioned, if you're on board with being thrown about in the wind like a rag doll mood-wise, there's oodles of heartache and tragedy that will travel to your actual heart. On the surface complex but very clear, Law never needs to play Mrs. Exposition as she trusts her audience is slowly untangling the victimization that is the key thing present in BG. It's a human never allowed to decide for herself what to believe. For instance her mother (Elise McCredie) claims her body is sinful, full of germs and only God can redeem.
This heavy plot running through the film, that also deals in the incest of BG by the grandpa character played by Nicholas Hope (Bad Boy Bubby) gets our most heavy emotional reaction but not due to the sexual mistreatment but to the blessing JM is on BG. It's all about awakening a human, opening up a pair of blind eyes and it's deserved. JM's journey is vaguer but a more ongoing, unwritten one, consciously. This is an Asian angel sent down and the pair of Clara Law and Eddie Fong certainly are for the Australian movie industry, even though I know nothing of its state then or now. This is how you as a Hong Kong filmmaker enter the international arena.
Distributed by Image Entertainment in America, the 1.78:1 framed anamorphic transfer looks stunning, replicating the highly colourful look of the film wonderfully well.
The English/Japanese language track in Dolby Digital 2.0 expands the front nicely for effects and music while dialogue sounds crystal clear.
Optional English subtitles only appear for the Japanese dialogue. During the select few times they do pop up, they are coherent and error-free.
Main supplement is a 26 minute, 57 second featurette called "A Story Of A...Goddess". Featuring interviews with Clara Law and cast talking of script development, casting, characters, preparation of leading lady Rose Byrne playing it blind and Rikiya Kurokawa learning English, the program is a worthwhile examination of assorted aspects on the production. The more valuable footage comes from various rehearsal and prep-sessions. Remainder of the extras come in the form of the trailer and a Stills Gallery (running 2 minutes, 20 seconds).
Inside the dvd case you'll find 4 page essay entitled "A Storyteller Of Displacement And Transmigration" by Dian Li that covers the career of Law's (but neglects the excellent Fruit Punch) in a style of analyzing that is a bit too thoughtful for me personally.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson
(1) But she's coming back soon... look out for Like A Dream in 2009.
(2) Himself also a director, best being An Amourous Woman Of Tang Dynasty and the wild Jacky Cheung vehicle The Private Eye Blues.