Have a Nice Day, Liu Jian’s animated noir that competed for a Golden Bear at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival in February, the film that Hollywood Reporter called “distinctly different from more mainstream Asian animated fare,” and has been described as “Quentin Tarantino meets Wong Kar-Wai” — the film that drew even more international attention when it was pulled from the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in France due to Chinese government pressure — that film… might be given a theatrical release in China later this year?
That’s if you choose to believe the optimism of Have a Nice Day producer Yang Cheng, who was quoted yesterday in BBC as saying, “We hope it will be shown in Chinese cinemas in the second half of this year.”
In the same article, Yang confirmed it was his team that asked Annecy to pull the film, which festival organizers did on May 30 (accompanied by a brief announcement on its website). One of the organizers reportedly said they “did not have the right to endanger the film’s team.”
We’ll never know exactly how China’s State Administration of Radio Film and Television sets its guidelines — they’re not exactly the talk-to-media type — but it’s possible that officials decided the film — a bloody drama featuring stolen money, gangsters, and hitmen set against the backdrop of a drab southern Chinese city — simply cast China in an embarrassing light. Or perhaps it was too smart, its undertones too piquant, the allusions to uncomfortable everyday realities a bit too cutting.
But why! What’s to worry about? Ever since its entry in the Berlin International Film Festival, Have a Nice Day has received critical acclaim at every turn. I’m not one to judge films — particularly those I haven’t seen — through reviews, but reading the reviews of Have a Nice Day has been boggling my mind. Jonathan Romney, writing in Screen Daily, called it a “vibrantly witty piece of postmodern pop art.”
If you had to make comparisons, however, the film plays like a cross between No Country For Old Men and Jia Zhangke’s thriller A Touch of Sin, put through a coolly affectless quasi-anime filter; although the style and the approach are very much Liu’s own.
Those are great comparisons!
Here’s an excerpt from Screen Anarchy:
Set against an epigraph of Leo Tolstoy’s opening lines to Resurrection — “Though hundreds of thousands had done their very best to disfigure the small piece of land […] still spring was spring, even in the town” — and a credit sequence made up of carefully detailed snapshots of modern urban Chinese life, what you receive early on is an impression of a damaged world full of harsh corruption and unexpected violence.
And this, written by Jessica Kiang in Variety, describes just the sort of movie I and everyone else should want to see:
China is a big, populous place, but Liu’s story makes this particular social stratum feel claustrophobically tiny. Partly that’s the convention of this contrived genre — the noirish black comedy has always relied on a heavy dose of credibility-straining coincidence to land its characters back in the irony-heavy situations they deserve. But it does also make a point about this tawdry milieu and a modern world in which pop culture, politics, and celebrity are international (there are visual and verbal references to everything from “The Godfather” to “Rocky” to “Deadpool” to Mark Zuckerberg, Donald Trump, Steve Jobs, Brexit, and Bill Gates)…
So yeah, let’s hope Have a Nice Day enjoys a wide release. At this point, with all the hype, the worst that can happen is that the film turns out to not be good.