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Crying Origami: Review

From The Cambridge Student, Thursday, 2 March 2000 by Will McKenzie

ATTA CHUI founded the Cambridge Movie Workshop way back when in 1988 as an attempt to get as many people as possible to get directly involved in all aspects of the filmmaking process. A collaborative approach between members has certainly been fruitful. Chui's 14TH(14th!) film is a short and tender account of a love affair between a young Cantonese man Tat (Herman Kwong), and a young, married, origami artist, Noriko (Angela Peachey). Under Chui's direction, the beautifully-made paper models that permeate the action become symbols for a perfect love that encapsulates and combines the passion and intoxication of art with the intimate sensation of living itself.

This ambitious theme is developed gently and persuasively through the elegant and stylish screenplay. The simple, limpid metaphors of water, tears, air and escape in the actors' speeches work well with the film's basic themes and the figurative links that really come through in the editing of the film. Indeed, as Crying Origami develops a complex, er, folding and interfolding tale of flashback within flashback, Chui draws upon an impressive vocabulary of editing techniques to get the varieties and richness of memory across: the first few minutes see cross-cutting; high, fast exposures to convey a blinding light between past and present; gentle fades and wipes; stilled shots with voiceover and slow motion! Who said a low budget was an obstacle?

So Crying Origami is fundamentally a brave and experimental film from a young, home-grown filmmaker. I'm sure a bigger budget, however, could address some of its flaws. The acting is basically good, but at times flat, and some of the costumes inappropriate. Also, the rhythm of the film suffers when shots move along too quickly, and at times composition is a problem; Tat appears dwarfed behind a Triffid-like plant in one frame, and occasionally the repetitive medium shots give the film a sense of claustrophobia at odds with the film's poetry, for instance. Special praise, however, for the soundtrack, which is at times reminiscent of the hypnotic work of Michael Nyman, and the handling of the film's story, which manages to have a sting in its tail when you think that everything has settled down comfortably. This is a film that struggles heroically with very little money and creates something quite special. Better than it has any right to be, and worth checking out. [3/5] (WJM)

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