The closest thing to a religious presence in The Great Buddha+ is a towering statue of the divine being that sits in a factory run by Kevin Huang (Leon Dai) and watched at night by aging guardsman Pickle (Cres Chuang). However, this figure is tainted — inside the giant Buddha is evidence that could easily convict Kevin and his shady cohorts (who work for the local government) of illegal activities. It’s through this contradiction that Taiwanese director Huang Hsin-yao’s anger is able to register, as corrupt bureaucracy hides under the guise of good deeds while the everyman is left helpless in a system that favors higher social classes.
Huang provides nuances for each character, usually relating to a sense of irony about their casual abuse of power (a statesman who gets new wood paneling for his desk to hide his mistress, say). Huang also interjects his own literal voice throughout the film, as narrator, which helps elevate The Great Buddha+ from a mere exercise in cynicism to more of the director’s personal meditation on the helplessness he feels as a person and an artist working within a bleak sociopolitical system.
Published as part of New Directors/New Films 2018 | Dispatch 1.