Away with Words | aka Kujaku (1999) Review

"Away with Words" UK DVD Cover

"Away with Words" UK DVD Cover

Director: Christopher Doyle
Writer: Christopher Doyle, Tony Rayns
Producer: Hiro Tokimori
Cast: Tadanobu Asano, Kevin Sherlock, Mavis Xu, Georgina Hobson, Christa Hughes, Takanori Kubo
Running Time: 86 min.

By Mighty Peking Man

A dispirited young man (Tadanobu Asano of “Ichi The Killer”) who has had it with the noisy stressful life in Japan heads to Hong Kong to find the peace he’s been lacking since his early childhood. Oddly, he finds solitude at a gay nightclub where he quietly sits alone and gathers wordily-thoughts to himself. While there, he befriends the bar’s owner (Kevin Sherlock), an extreme-party animal and alcoholic, who’s bad memory constantly gets him into trouble. Also in the mix is a pretty Japanese woman (Mavis Xu), who works as a fashion-dresser at the nightclub; she left her family in Japan to pursue her “own” meaning of life. Together, the three characters discover each other’s pleasant company and connect their problems through an array of colorful (but odd) poetic-like conversations.

The first few minutes of “Away With Words” makes you think that unless you have the artistic mind capabilities of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, you’re not going to get too far into it. It’s a film that definitely lives up to it’s title because most of it’s dialogue is a colossal-gag of thought provoking poetry. At times, it may seem to get a little tedious, but with given moments and a bit of patience, you might find an entertaining art-house flick.

Written and directed by Christopher Doyle (mostly known for being Wong Kar-Wai’s prized cinematographer), “Away With Words” is a surreal, melancholic tale that’s several notches above “Chungking Express” as far as artistic visuals are concerned. Doyle’s trademark camera techniques are put into full effect. Many different film stocks, effects and cranking speeds add to the film’s dreamy tones. Obviously influenced (and educated) by director Wong Kar-Wai, Doyle takes what he’s learned and applies more whimsicality and less logic.

Look for outstanding performances by the lead cast, especially from Kevin Sherlock, who plays the cracked nightclub owner. “Away With Words” also bares a catchy soundtrack, which surprised me when the song “Sugar Water” by Cibo Matto (one of my favorite bands of the 90’s) came on and played fully to a music video-like montage of related incidents in the film. Also, look for a hilarious moment when an old lady starts rapping to the karaoke version of Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five’s classic “The Message” – she’d give that other old lady from “The Wedding Singer” a run for her money.

“Away With Words” is recommended, but mostly for art-film enthusiasts.

Mighty Peking Man’s Rating: 7.5/10

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