'A Man from Manchuria': Review

By Halligan, Fionnuala | Screen International, March 24, 2015 | Go to article overview

'A Man from Manchuria': Review


Halligan, Fionnuala, Screen International


Dir/scr. Tang Di. China, 2015, 86 mins.

Novelist Tang Di makes a disturbing screen debut with A Man From Manchuria, a degraded and disorientating piece which is deliberately oblique and discomfiting. It's scratchy and raw and mostly occluded, forcing the viewer into the uncomfortable perspective of a down-and-dirty voyeur, but A Man From Manchuria will almost certainly find its way into festival screenings where its brutal viewpoint will provoke debate.

Mainstream exhibition is probably out of reach for A Man From Manchuria - apart from being outside the realm of what is accepted as tasteful, its scenes of drug-taking, wife-beating and necrophilia will result in a restricted rating if it remains uncut, and it's already brief at 86 minutes. Tang Di makes a lasting impression however; the grimy, septic feel of A Man From Manchuria is unique, although its blunt and raw shooting style can overstay its welcome.

Ascribing a narrative to A Man From Manchuria is difficult, and while Tang Di is credited with the screenplay, it's more of an idea-made-flesh. The film centres around an American Psycho-style sex addict and killer, who leaves his wife to go on a spree of drug-taking and violence, but then returns, on-the-run from the police. Separately, she searches endlessly for him, and when he does return they indulge in brutal sado-masochistic sex during which she is repeatedly beaten. They live in decayed surroundings, reeking filth and ruins; he smokes heroin and prowls relentlessly through the streets of Tangshen, wheeling a suitcase. …

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