"Let me see you stripped Down to the bone" - Depeche Mode
After the success in Malaise by his previous production, Histeria, a horror film that is still awaiting even a video edition of our side of the globe, James Lee returns to the cinema, singular and digital, which has built His reputation, as well as that of his "family" Da Huang Pictures [ 1 ] . Call If You Need Me , a bare-chested gangster film, allows the director to find a genre he had already touched on in Ah Beng Returns , and to once again carry the torch bearer of the two main characteristics of the new Malay wave, Presented by the actor Pete Teo during the diffusion of the film in competition of the 31st edition of the Festival of 3 Continents: The lack of resources, and the lack of resources. Yet from the top of his $ 15,000 budget, Call If You Need Me does not show any cinematic gap. Like Ah Beng Returns before him, he manages to transform a handicap into a personality, and, with far more narrative control, to make his stripping constrained an astonishing stylistic manifesto.
The story is classic: Or Kia leaves his campaign to join his cousin Ah Soon in Kuala Lumpur. Ah Soon is at the head of some gangsters, who prefer the Hokkien to the Cantonese and help him cover up debts to fill the pockets of a local egg. Ah Soon climbs the ladders and hoists Or Kia with him, offers him his men while he goes to take care of more serious business. Then one falls into disfavor while the other continues to shine; It is a simple affair of brothers of blood, loyalty and motivations.
Except that Call If You Need Me is not that simple. Take any gangster film in the same frame and defeat it all, transform the explicit construction of an anticipation into induced retroactive replay, and serve the whole with a paradoxically intimate distance; You get a work all in unsaid and deductive, strong hypnotism that carries most of James Lee's films. Each scene, static in appearance, stretches lengthy attitudes and relationships, mostly silent. Yet, while the words emphasize a surprisingly light and violent approach to organized crime and its consequences on the "family" sphere, the composition of the plans tells us something else.
In order to compensate for the lack of relief of the mini-DV image, James Lee fills each sequence with a foreground and one or more layers of background, when it does not place an obstacle - a window and its bars For example - in the foreground. So when Or Kia meets her cousin's gang, they all spend an evening together tinted with narcotics. In the foreground, Ah Soon and his girlfriend Ah Peng express an uneven affection - embracing her, almost captive - while behind them, Kia Kia dances with the cheerful and cuddly Claudia. At the bottom of the image, the men of hands go to their drugged boredom, film with a mobile phone Or Kia and his companion one evening. This (de) composition fulfills, without the camera moving or focusing, many narrative objectives.
Without saying a word or nearly, James Lee already exposes the strings of his narrative, the stakes and the fissures to come. And if we can initially fear the austerity of the whole, this one is only apparent and we quickly find ourselves in the middle of the lines of Call If You Need Me , which are so many bits ( A hidden city, clinical interiors, a house under construction, betrayed feelings, and many unanswered questions ), the elements that so many films have displayed, with strong verbiage and mis en scene, before him. James Lee does not need anything, not even means, to tell the same thing; At the most with the talent retained of its two main actors, the singer Pete Teo and the Singaporean star Sunny Pang.
Read the full review on Sancho Does Asia