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The Incredible Truth

Liu Yan and Christy Chung seek The Incredible Truth.

Chinese: 人間蒸發
Year: 2013
Director: Sam Leung Tak-Sum

Wang Hong

Writer: Sam Leung Tak-Sum
Cast: Christy Chung Lai-Tai, Liu Yan, Sam Lee Chan-Sam, Megumi Kagurazaka, Den Den, Michiko Kodama, Tony Ho Wah-Chiu, Ikki Funaki, Danni Ma, Mari Abe, Jun Kunimura
The Skinny: Unimpressive Japan-set psychological mystery-drama that suffers from unremarkable everything. There's a decent movie in here, but Sam Leung is unable to deliver on whatever promise exists. Featuring an Ending That Comes Out of Nowhere™ and plenty of actors who were also in Sion Sono movies.
by Kozo:
The Stewardess director Sam Leung mines Japanese cinema once again with the psychological mystery-drama The Incredible Truth. Unfortunately, the result doesn’t rise above the rest of his unexceptional filmography. Christy Chung stars as Wei Ling, a make-up artist who flies to Japan to find actress friend Jia Jia (Liu Yan), who disappeared while visiting fiancé Hirota Shimizu (Ikki Funaki). Wei Ling’s search leads her to the Akaishi Inn, a remote forest-located hostel run by the Shimizu family. Nobody at the inn has seen Jia Jia but that’s obviously untrue because everyone acts shifty or hostile, plus Hirota is holed up in his room acting loony. Wei Ling is determined to find the truth but she can’t speak the language and nobody wants to help her. However, she receives visions of the recent past — all courtesy of Jia Jia, who left some sort of psychic imprint at the inn. That’s awesome for Wei Ling because she’s not a very good detective.

Wei Ling’s visions, plus the suspicious behavior of everyone who’s not Chinese, help to unfold the film’s mystery, which at first glance makes for a decent dark melodrama. The foreboding rural setting, twisted relationships and sinister characterizations promise something pulpy and surprising, but Sam Leung can’t build his characters or situations to match the loud music cues and ominous atmosphere. Direction is obvious, exposition is stilted and acting is inconsistent. Megumi Kagurazaka (wife of filmmaker Sion Sono) is entertainingly lurid as Michiko, the Shimizu family’s spinster daughter, and Den Den (Sion Sono’s Coldfish — what is up with these Sono swipes?) has fine presence as a silently menacing Akaishi Inn employee. Oddly, the Chinese actors only serve to prop up the Japanese actors and setting. Fans of character actors can revel in appearances by Jun Kunimura and Sam Lee. Yes, we’re looking for stuff to like.

The Incredible Truth is basically 1.2 movies, with one film being the whole “mystery at the Akaishi inn” thing, while the remaining 0.2 tells the story of Wei Ling’s earlier experiences in Japan. Wei Ling was previously involved with the married Zhang Dong (Tony Ho), and flash cuts and jittery flashbacks hint that something bad happened to Zhang Dong’s wife Ying (Mari Abe). Wei Ling’s backstory adds more soap opera details to the already tangled proceedings (highlight: someone has a meltdown while wearing a bikini), but her subplot is ultimately unnecessary and rather trite. Not one to let an opportunity slip by, Leung also adds a timely reference to the 3/11/11 disasters in Japan, but it does little to help The Incredible Truth live up to its title. Even fans of the fading stars should be hard pressed to call this film worth watching. Sam Leung conceived of The Incredible Truth as a tribute to late director Shohei Imamura. A better tribute: watching one of Shohei Imamura’s films instead. (Kozo, 9/2013)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Kam & Ronson Enterprises Co., Ltd
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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