We hear about the Chinese film revolution in the news almost weekly. Studios raking in the millions at a rate that could potentially rival that of the United States. But as much as we hear about this booming industry, we have yet to see it bleed through into the western film consciousness. Sure, the minute a new Ip Man film comes out, loads of fanboys will run flocking to their DVD import site, but what about the Asian films that speak to the heart of the human condition? In an age where digital media and social media have reduced the once unfathomable size of the earth to something that can be traversed at the speed of light, you would think that a much richer exchange of culture and art would be going on. Thankfully, there is hope as a delightful film from Hong Kong has trickled through the cracks and landed at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival in Park City. That film is Free and Easy.

There is no other way to put it, Asian films can be long, slow, brutal affairs at times. Their pace is one that must be acquired through constant viewing, and Free and Easy is no exception. The film revolves around the lives of various men whose only shared characteristic is that they are in the same line of employment: they are con-men. Our characters lives come crashing together through a series of events that set a tone that is as much tragic as it is humorous. It’s hard to relate with the men in this film, but we fall in love with them all the same, forgiving them for the full gamut of despicable human acts. It’s not an easy viewing, but it’s one that is enriching nonetheless. Films may be a way to pacify reality, but sometimes they must also influence our reality as well.

Free and Easy

Artistic voices in China are subjected to horrendous amounts of government pressure and influence. At times this can be overwhelming to artists in China. As a result, political and social commentary must be expertly encrypted into the fabric of Chinese art. Nothing can be said directly and what may seem to be a somewhat random film about con-men in an impoverished city is, at its heart, an eloquent and important film. It is a silent scream for revolution and change set against the beautiful cinematic landscape of China.

The film’s screenwriter Geng Jun believes that reality isn’t as quick and concise as is commonly depicted, but instead slow and drawn out affairs that take time to develop and blossom. In this film, we are shown that though interactions and events in our lives may at times seem unimportant, they are still the necessary facilitators of our lives, and as such us to our ultimate fate. Film and life are similar in this aspect, and Geng Jun does a wonderful job of showing this.

 

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Free and Easy
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Ty Cooper lives in Asia and spends most his time drifting through the streets of Taiwan imagining he is Shotaro Kaneda in Akira. Once a year he takes on the unyielding snow storm that is Sundance and attempts to capture a glimpse at what the upcoming year in film has to offer. Ty first started writing for HeyUGuys after SXSW in 2010.