Have a Nice Day / 好极了 / hǎojíle (2017)
Directed by: Liu Jian
Written by: Liu Jian
Cast: Zhu Changlong, Yang Siming, Ma Xiaofeng, Zheng Yi, Cao Kai
Review: This is an animated film by an independent studio. Despite its size and art history, China isn’t known for animation at all although I’m sure they have local stuff that caters to their own region that never gets released outside of the mainland. This is a crime film for adults that’s drawn in a realistic style. The plot is pretty simple and it takes place in a small empty looking town. A guy steals a bag of money and his boss is not pleased. In a series of events, other people discover the money and each one tries to keep it for themselves but ends up losing it.
A trailer for this movie quotes someone comparing it to Pulp Fiction because of this. It’s an apt comparison but this is definitely a Chinese story with Chinese characters & mentality. We see how each of the character’s blind spot leads to their downfall as all they can focus on is the money. It’s a surprise the Chinese censors didn’t outright ban this movie (although it was pulled from Annecy in France even though it played at other international festival). There’s definitely commentary about China as seen through the lives of these characters, each with their own quirks, as they discuss their ideas on freedom and their dreams. There are also moments of humor, done in a dry, deadpan style.
The soundtrack immediately struck me. Particularly, the first track that opens the movie. There’s a mix of traditional music and modern beats and I wasn’t surprised to find out that this was by The Shanghai Restoration Project.
Art-wise, the backgrounds are excellent, they capture many of the generic storefronts and locations that you would find in many Chinese cities with a lot of accurate details (minus the garbage). The colors also look right but probably a bit muted to portray how run-down the town is. The animation is limited, which isn’t a surprise since this had a low budget. One notices a “copy and paste” type look like when a lizard walks across train tracks as if it were walking on completely flat land. Cars speed into and out of screen incredibly quickly with instant stopping and starting. None of these shortcomings matter much because the crew definitely put the effort in where it matters the most. There’s one particularly amusing sequence where a couple characters in the movie are placed in a series of propaganda posters.
It’s not the best animated film I’ve ever seen but it’s pretty good. A tad slow at times but there’s flavor and originality here that’s distinctly Chinese that you won’t find in other animated films. If you’re an open minded fan of animated films and like crime stories then this is definitely worth watching. The next screening is July 19.
Seen in the theater at Fantasia film festival.