Moving from one genre to another, The Great Buddha+ is a different spiritual product when compared to last week’s All You Can Eat movie. The Victoria Film Festival has unique picks every year. I wanted to challenge myself; this pairing is probably a result of Donovan Aikman, head programmer, than anyone else offering their two-cents worth when deciding in what to show. The only technical fault is whether the print allows tweaking how the subtitles look; white text with thin black outlines against a white image is hard to read unless you have eagle-eyes.
Otherwise, the film is a nicely done Hitchcock style who-will-do-it mystery. It’s presented in black and white for part of the film, and colour for the movie within the movie.
When Belly Button (Bamboo Chen) and Pickle (Cres Chuang) has nothing better to do in their misbegotten lives other than to watch dash-cam footage recording the life of Kevin Huang (Leon Dai). This guy is the boss of a factory specializing in making large Buddha statues where Pickle works, and he’s a misogynistic pig. The many women they discover he’s been with could have been reported, but they don’t. This style of the found footage genre makes sense. Don’t give it to the viewer as an edited product, but rather as us watching the film with a protagonist who is watching the material raw.
As this film dives into pacing problem territory (there were a few walkouts), I stuck it out as I wanted to know if the statue being assembled will become a makeshift coffin. When the duo witnesses Huang killing a girl on the camera at the shop, I knew right away at what could happen. The bigger question is who gets put in there and when?
This black comedy is bleak and the latter part of the film gets strangely poetic. There’s no heavy-handed spiritual message. Instead, we get a satire about modern small-town corruption. I had to laugh at the jabs into what respect means in a spiritual (thou shalt not lie) sense. Amitābha Buddha’s name is used in vain when the temple representatives say the statue is not looking up to snuff.
Any food references exist in the translated names. Peanut and Sugar Apple are two supporting characters whom I wanted to know more about. This film is an expansion of the short film of the same name by director/writer Hsin-yao Huang (hence the + in the title) and with arthouse films, it is very New Wave. With this product, nobody needs to rub this god’s tummy for prosperity. To not do it pretty much means everyone is going to get into trouble!
3½ Blokes out of 5