Today I’m beginning a four day series of films that contain some of the best performances of 2009. These are films where the performances made me sit up and go "Hello". Trust me, if you want to see great performances where the actors make it look easy or as if they aren't acting, track any of the next four films down.
If you want to see one of the best performances of the year, possibly one of the best performances ever put on screen this is one to track down. I only found out about it because the film was part of the New York Asian Film Festival last year.
Xun Zhou is a cab driver named Li Mi. She is a chain smoking, fast talking cabbie trying to work out the meaning of the universe or more specifically what exactly happened to her boyfriend who has been missing for four years. As the film opens we get a series of inter-cut cab rides as she talks to her stunned passengers about the numbers of their relationship. How many letters sent over how many months? Is there a pattern, a reason behind it all? She also shows them pictures of her missing ex in the hopes that someone will be able to tell her where he is. One day two gentlemen climb into her cab who will up set her life and set events in motion that will unravel the mystery of the missing boyfriend.
A hypnotic central performance by Xun Zhou is the reason to watch this very good little film. She is something almost other worldly in a performance that is, simply put, one of the most amazing things I've ever seen on the screen. I'm talking top three or at worst top five. She grabs you from the instant she appears and holds your attention and proceeds to rock you back on your feet, or in your chair, six ways to Sunday.
If there is any justice this film will get some form of wide distribution and be seen around the world instead of in film festivals or as DVDs imported from Hong Kong (which is how I saw it). It's simply not right that the work Xun Zhou is doing will not be seen by more people. (And if you want to know how good she is compare her performance to another great performance in things like Perhaps Love-a film to be reviewed shortly)
The cast is great. I don't think anyone is even remotely bad. The film belongs to Zhou, but everyone else holds their own and gives her something to act against.
Outside of Xun Zhou the film is good.
The story is the weak spot here. It's a little too neat in how everything ends up tying together. Some of where this film wanders can seem a bit far a field, which is the reason I haven't given too many details about the plot. It's a bit choppy, with events not always seeming to play out completely, but at the same time the film is more a character study of Li Mi so the film shows us what we need to follow her quest. Its a battle between expectation and actuality and looking at part of the film again this morning I find it plays better the second time since I wasn't expecting it to behave in a certain way.
I really liked this film a great deal.
This is one of those films put on the list and keep an eye out for since it's a little gem that's going to be hidden from view.
(The original title apparently is Li Mi Guesses which is probably better but less poetic)