NYAFF 2016: LAZY CRAZY HAZY, FREELANCE (HEART ATTACK) Explore Love, Work, Sex, and More Sex (Also Sex)

 

NYAFF 2016
The New York Asian Film Festival took place between June and July 9. For more information, click here and next time, don’t settle for just reading about it… live the dream, people!!!

LAZY HAZY CRAZY

Lazy Hazy Crazy is a far more serious movie than its vaguely silly title suggests. It sounds like some kind of Hong Kong romantic comedy from the mid ’90s starring Anita Yuen and Leon Lai.

What it doesn’t sound like is a movie that begins with some decidedly explicit musings on blow jobs.

But even after you get past the blowie talk, Lazy Crazy Hazy is still a singularly odd film. It’s got the melodramatic content of a WB show, mixed with a sexual explicitness that is, if not shocking, than certainly jarring.

Tracy (Kwok Yik Sum) and Chloe (Mak Tsz Yi) are high school students and best friends. Their blissful union is threatened by Chloe’s emerging friendship with a third girl, Alice (Fish Liew). The virginal Tracy moves into an apartment with the other girls, but finds herself increasingly on the outs due to Alice and Chloe’s shared profession as paid escorts.

There’s also a dog. And more fucking than you can shake a tampon at. Which, for the record, only seems like an odd metaphor if you haven’t watched the movie.

On the one hand, it’s commendable that the movie dives in headfirst to explore the sexuality of its heroines through a decidedly feminist gaze. Yee Suk-Yun, screenwriter and first time director, is no stranger to embracing the naughty (hell, one of her scripts is straight up called Vulgaria), so there’s a refreshing lack of shame here. While there’s absolutely a surfeit of sex and nudity, none of it is filmed with the gauzy remove that characterizes so much of movie sexuality. This is a film that is fully aware of the biological realities involved in sex, and of womanhood in general, and one that doesn’t blink in the face of them.

I mean, this is a movie where menstrual cycles becoming synced up is a celebrated character moment. How can you not admire that?

But on the other hand, the drama itself is confused and scattershot. Without going too far into spoilers, the biggest conflict between the women eventually is revealed to revolve around… some dude (Tse Sit Chun, affably vanilla). And while it’s not the only source of discord, it’s easily the least interesting aspect of the film, essentially taking up most of the third act and squeezing out some significantly more interesting developments. For instance, Tracy’s apprenticeship is under the transsexual tea house owner Madame Glaze (a hypnotic Derek Tsang). That’s a thing that happens and is never brought up again, which is especially odd when a later plot point involves the idea that Tracy hasn’t been paying her rent. And except for a couple of brief boilerplate scenes, the subplot involving Alice and her formerly deadbeat dad doesn’t resolve itself so much as just kind of peter out in a dramatically convenient way.

(By the way, there’s no other place to best work this in, but I feel compelled to mention that Alice’s nickname is ‘Prickly Cunt’, which is what she goes by for most of the movie. So… now we both aware of that fact.)

It’s hard not to appreciate the ambitions of Lazy Hazy Crazy, even as it doesn’t fully come together. Then again, there’s a lot of togetherness, and a WHOLE LOT of cumming, so what do I know?

FREELANCE (HEART ATTACK)

If it had nothing else going for it, Freelance would deserve credit for actually attempting to portray a working life on screen. Most movies treat work as the thing people do to explain how they can do whatever they want. The reality, of course, is that work is how you pay your bills. And it’s what we spend most of our lives doing.

In the world of American TV and movies, hard work is that thing you do that’s keeping you from true happiness. And we tend not to like movies about actually doing the work one does do to pay bills because movies are supposed to be our escape from that shit. But Freelance tackles it head-on, with wit and grace and a fundamental understanding of just how big a factor employment plays in self-image and social connection. And it’s doubly impressive, just in terms of how much it gets right when it comes to the art of freelancing.

Because make no mistake, freelance work is a different beast entirely.

Like many movie protagonists, Yoon (Sunny Suwanmethanon) is very, very good at what he does, which in this case happens to be graphic design. And like many movie protagonists, his excellence comes at the expense of having anything resembling outside interests or a social life. But unlike most movies, Yoon is literally working himself to death. And even more unlike most movies, there’s a significant chance that something so plain as love isn’t going to pull him back from the edge.

This is a comedy, by the way.

After what must be years of all-nighters that extend for multiple days and nights, and a steady diet of crappy 7-11 snacks, Yoon begins breaking out in a severe rash. This rash sends him to the young, cute doctor Imm (Davika Hoorne). And finally, Yoon has an interest outside of being the best freelance graphic designer in the industry.

Freelance is fundamentally a movie about relationships, but not in the way we’ve been trained to expect from the kind of setup I just described. What passes between Yoon and Imm isn’t quite romance, though Yoon is undoubtedly attracted to her. It’s more akin to Yoon realizing (for the first time) the pleasures of human connection, and the limits of job satisfaction.

To that point, the relationships are by far the best part of the film. Owing to his generally solitary lifestyle, Yoon doesn’t do a lot of talking in the film. Instead, there’s a near constant voice over displaying Yoon’s thoughts, feelings, and philosophies at pretty much all times. Which is one of those creative choices that’s potentially disastrous. Luckily, Suwanmethanon has a great voice and an easy charm, making his ramblings light and funny where they just as easily could have been annoying and dull.

Among the few people he does interact with, special attention must be paid to his manager Je, played by the brilliantly deadpan Violette Wautier. What seems at first like the third point in an inevitable triangle with Imm turns out to be that rarest of cinematic beasts: a true male/female friendship with not even the tiniest of romantic aspects. Their friendship is one of the sweetest parts of what winds up being a very sweet movie.

But sweetness isn’t the same thing as lightness, and Freelance isn’t afraid to go dark when it has to. The film doesn’t flinch from the possibility that for some people creative fulfillment and a social life may be mutually exclusive.

For certain types, especially in the creative field, there’s this drive that outsiders can’t even begin to comprehend. Success is not about being better than everyone else, so much as a need to operate at the top of your capacity at all times. To constantly move forward and constantly find that next peak of skill. Yoon, it quickly becomes clear, has no interest in the details of what he does, or what it all means. He knows what he’s capable of, and doing anything less is a waste. More to the point, doing anything else at all is a waste.

Ultimately, this isn’t the story of Yoon learning to find some balance between work and life; it’s Yoon being forced into a scenario where he has to choose one or the other. And if this were an American movie, it wouldn’t be any kind of choice at all. But in the world of Freelance (which is closer to the real world than some might care to admit), there’s a price to be paid for splitting focus, and though the film more or less comes down on the side of self care, it’s respectable that the issue isn’t made out to be quite so clear cut.

While Yoon is clearly the protagonist, and the film clearly unfolds from his perspective, credit must be paid to Horne, who does a wonderful job as the sort of caretaker whose empathy could just as easily prove to be her Achilles heel.

By the nature of the story being told, we don’t find out any more about Imm than Yoon himself is privy to (interestingly, this includes the implication that Imm might not be all that good of a doctor in the first place). But in this case, a lack of screen time doesn’t necessarily denote a lack of depth. Hoorne invests her character with a vivid inner life. Imm isn’t some Manic Pixie Dream Girl who saves her man through the healing power of love; in fact, it’s not even guaranteed that she’ll be able to save him at all.

I mean, let’s not forget that the alternate title for this movie is Heart Attack. In what world could that possibly bode well…?

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"V.N. Pryor is the patron saint of the impossible. You could drop the guy off at the Arctic Circle wearing a pair of bikini underwear without his toothbrush and tomorrow afternoon he's gonna show up at your poolside with a million dollar smile and a fistful of pesos..."