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La Double Vie: Review

From Varsity, Arts, 29.04.06 by Sam Law (Issue 638)

La Double Vie D’Atta Chui
Sam Law enjoys a homegrown film about second chances

Local director Atta Chui’s recent film, La Double Vie (Double Life) was showcased in Europe last month
and is this week being shown at Emmanuel on April 30th.

The piece is a fascinating collaboration between local filmmakers and students and will make the perfect study break for those of us who don’t want our imaginations’ cogs to stop whirring completely in our time away from the library.

The film’s plot focuses on one relationship that is split into separate timelines across two strands of narrative possibility. If this sounds confusing, then the most important thing to remember about this film is that it raises the question: if you could go back and relive your life, could you make anything any better?

Admirably, Chui refuses to conclude his picture as a ‘be happy with what you’ve got’ morality tale. Instead the
director has chosen to weave in complex themes of alternate reality more akin to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Donnie Darko than more standard amateur fare.

Although shot entirely on digital video, Chui manages to blend the artful and engaging styles of European and Asian cinema, showing both the confidence and finesse to allow minimalist touches, such as lingering shots of rippling water, that punctuate emotionally charged scenes with moments of stillness. It is perhaps this ability to do so much with so little that constitues the film’s greatest strength.

To an extent, through calculated direction and editing, Chui has managed to realise the high concept of the film without requiring explication through dialogue. Cinematic devices and restraints are all wielded to the filmmaker’s advantage with the handheld camera achieving an authentic aesthetic. Also, the action is
backed by an interesting musical score which, although occasionally verging on overbearing, ultimately enhances the movie’s dreamlike feel.

Carrying the spirit of the film though is leading lady Jenny Peachy, whose quietly seductive, yet simultanouesly inquisitive turn is the emotional heart of the piece. Her strength mirrors that
of the film itself as she is at her obvious best when silent; communicating with her features rather than the script.

As we move towards the end, the film maintains its steady and thoughtful pace and, despite an uncharacteristically outlandish climax where the dream briefly turns to nightmare, we are left pondering what the outcome would have been as much as the characters do themselves.

Overall this is a truly fascinating piece of work, which eschews overly flashy cinematography in favour of a hugely impressive plot and the formidable ability of its lead. Mysterious and ponderous, Atta Chui’s project is one to watch, then think about, and then rewatch.

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