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FilmsAsia: Asian film reviews
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   All Tomorrow's Parties  


All Tomorrow’s Parties

Reviewed by Adrian Sim

Director: Nelson Yu Lik Wai
Writing Credits: Nelson Yu Lik Wai
Cast: Yong Won-Cho, Diao Yi-Nan, Zhao Wei Wei
Country: China
Year Released: 2003
Runtime: 96 min

All Tomorrow’s Parties is not a masterpiece but certainly not as bad as many reviewers have made it out to be. It is undeniably a bold work of an uncompromising visionary marred slightly by its oft-murky storyline and elusive characters, which robs the film of its emotional power.

The premise of All Tomorrow’s Parties is simple. It is the 21st century and the despotic sect "Guidao" or "Orbit" has usurped central Asia (or at least China and Korea). Xiaozhuai and his younger brother, Mian, have been sent to "Camp Prosperity" for "reeducation." Meanwhile, Ah Zhuai meets and falls in love with Xuelan, a devastated single mother, who has been separated from her son. She is eventually robbed of her single prized memento of her family, i.e., a photograph.

Some of these "reeducation" techniques that Ah Zhuai and Xuelan undergo include being made to stand on chairs while uttering teachings of the sect. Far from evolving into the automatons that the teachings of the "Orbit" would set them out to be, Ah Zhuai and Xuelan soon escape from the camp and settle in a city at the border of China and Korea. They soon realize freedom is not much different from when they were incarcerated in "Camp Prosperity."

Plot aside...All Tomorrow’s Parties is technically accomplished. It boasts of exceptional cinematography and great use of noirish techniques like high-key chiaroscuro lighting to evoke a sense of impending doom and claustrophobia.

The vignettes of Xuelan and Ah Zhuai in romantic frolic are a welcome change from the relentless bleakness of the protagonists' destinies. Yet not much is revealed about the characters (e.g., Their past, motivations, etc.) that it becomes hard to commiserate with them. Perhaps Yu Lik Wai meant the characters to be elusive and impenetrable to stay true to his vision of a cold, soulless and often inexplicable world. Taking this into account, All Tomorrow’s Parties succeeds splendidly in portraying a nightmarishly dislocated world gone senseless and mad. It is a resounding success according to Yu Lik Wai's own terms.