Have a Nice Day

 

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The work of China's Liu Jian gains distribution here with this novel piece of animation.

 
Have a Nice Day

  

This highly original animated and subtitled feature from China is very much the work of Liu Jian for the credits name him not only as writer and director but also as editor, key animator and a co-producer. The novelty value to be found here is of more than one kind. Part of it, as evidenced by the 15 certificate, lies in the fact that this is not a work of animation made with children in mind for it tells a dramatic tale in which a crime lord known as Uncle Liu is the central figure. Indeed, there's enough violence in this tale for some commentators to have compared Have a Nice Day to the films of Quentin Tarantino (some of the dialogue points in that direction, too).

 

No less individual is the style of the animation which deliberately eschews the subtle detail often found in such features today favouring instead movement that is concentrated on foreground figures or objects and not on backgrounds. At the same time no attempt is made to ensure that the words heard fit in precisely with lip movements. It's an approach that seems to have deterred some viewers, but the film is totally consistent and I had no difficulty in being drawn into its world.

 

I have to admit, though, that I am not quite sure what Liu's aims were in telling this story of a desperate young man, Xiao Zhang, who steals a bag of banknotes belonging to Uncle Liu. The latter on learning of this immediately breaks off from torturing a man who happens to be an old friend and orders a hitman to trace the thief and recover the bag. As it happens, fate sees to it that the bag and its contents pass from hand to hand (not unlike the earrings in Max Ophüls's celebrated Madame de... of 1953 which in all other respects could not be more different).  It makes for an intriguing crime story with a whole range of characters (the viewer just about keeps up and recognises the ironies involved).

 

However, since the film begins with a quote from Tolstoy, puts much emphasis on the fact that the urban background is in a state of decay and ends with a song that references two famous novels (The Sorrows of Young Werther and Jean-Christophe), it is an open question as to whether or not a claim is being made that invites us to take this film seriously and to see it as a work of social comment. Many of the characters do indeed lead depressed lives and dream of other possibilities (there's even a song sequence reflecting this). But what is certain is that Liu Jian comes across as a film fan since we see posters of Rocky and Bruce Lee as well as one for his own 2010 film Piercing 1 while The Godfather earns a mention in the dialogue.  If Tarantino comes to mind, so on occasion does Jim Jarmusch. In addition, the ending indirectly reminded me of the close of Kubrick's early feature The Killing. In truth Have a Nice Day is probably more a film of surface pleasures than anything that goes memorably deeper, but I enjoyed it.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Voices of  Zhu Changlong, Cao Kai, Liu Jian, Yang Siming, Shi Haitao, Ma Xiaofeng, Xue Feng, Zheng Yi, Cao Kou, Zhu Hong, Wang Da, Wu Yu.

 

Dir Liu Jian, Pro Yang Cheng and Liu Jian, Screenplay Liu Jian, from a concept by Liu Jian and Lynne Wang, Ph Lin Shan, Art Dir Lai Baoer, Ed Militia Xiaoliu, Music The Shanghai Restoration Project, Key Animation Liu Jian.

 

NeZha Bros. Pictures/Lejoy Animation Studio-Mubi.
78 mins. People's Republic of China. 2017. Rel: 23 March 2018. Cert. 15.