A fanciful period piece set just after the fall of the Qing Dynasty, Chen Yu-Hsun’s The Village of No Return may have an ominous sounding English title, but it is in fact a crowd-pleasing Chinese New Year movie, with humor as broad as a ten-lane highway. Centering on the denizens of the very colorful Desire Village, the film bursts with frenetic action and incident, including beatboxing/doo-wop-ing bandits; a bicycle-riding, scythe-wielding postwoman/bandit leader; a Taoist priest/conman; and a “Worry Ridder” tricked-out helmet that removes painful memories when placed on the head. The film is also pretty much a shapeless mess, with a plot that lurches along awkwardly along from one silly scene to another, with only a distant relationship to logic—and that isn’t nearly as funny as it so desperately tries to be. That leaves only an exquisite Shu Qi to give us anything truly worth watching; as a woman trapped in an unhappy arranged marriage, pining for her true love, she lends soulfulness and a bit of depth to a movie well beneath her talents.
Previously published as part of New York Asian Film Festival | Dispatch 1.