is the corporate headquarters of Jones & Sunn, a large Mainland financial
services conglomerate, but it looks like it exists in the world of Chaplin’s Modern Times. Never has the white collar
workplace been so surreal, yet so uncomfortably credible in a Bloomberg bullpen
kind of way. The impending IPO represents a heck of a payday for everyone, if
by everyone you mean the charismatic chairman and his not so secret lover, the
CEO, but Lehman Brothers complicates everything in Johnnie To’s musical
adaptation of Sylvia Chang’s zeitgeisty play, Office (trailer
which opens this Friday in New York, after premiering at this year’s TIFF.
Johnnie To has made a movie musical—and why not? It is one more cinematic peak
he summited. The music is not bad, but the design is simply extraordinary. Note
there is no article before this Office.
It is a strictly serious, high stakes environment. Ambitious junior managers
like Sophie understand they have to move up or out, but there is not a lot of
room above her. She has the ambiguous “support” of VP David Wang, who in turn
is the “favorite” of CEO Winnie Chang. She is a somewhat scandalous figure for
openly carrying on with the chairman, Ho Chung-ping while his wife remains in a
this thorny nest of office politics come two fresh-faced management trainees. Li
Xiang is a guileless go-getter, who somewhat charms Chang in spite of herself.
Yet, the mysterious Kat probably has the inside track being the chairman’s
daughter, working under an assumed name to avoid improper appearances. Frankly
though, nepotism will be the least of everyone’s worries.
the risk of excessive repetition, it should be emphasized just how incredible
designer William Chang’s sets look. They brilliantly blend the austerity of postmodernism
with the expressionism of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.
Sylvia’s Chang’s narrative is unusually complex, but it is nice to see a film
refrain from dumbing down the content. Of course, some themes are universal,
like the corporate equivalent of the aging diva and naïve ingénue struggling to
hold onto their piece of the pie. However, her source play resonated with
Chinese audiences newly coming to terms with the salaryman blues in ways that
will feel familiar to American viewers. Welcome to the party, its spectacular,
all honesty, the tunes are just okay, but Eason Chan demonstrates major vocal
chops as David Wang. On the other hand, Tang Wei looks like she just wants to
get through her numbers as quickly as possible, but in all other respects, her
work as Sophie is sensitively rendered and deeply affecting. Still, Sylvia
Chang clearly saved the prime cuts for herself, digging into Winnie Chang’s
Joan Crawfordness with relish we can all share. She also develops some
charmingly undefinable chemistry with Wang Ziyi’s Li Xiang. It is also cool to
watch Chow Yun-fat strut his stuff as the chairman of the board, because that
is basically what he is to Hong Kong cinema.
When Johnnie To does a musical, you have to see
it. It sounds fine, but Tang, Sylvia Chang, and William Chang’s eye-popping corporate
HQ give the audience plenty to watch. Recommended for To faithful ready for his
next departure and fans of the all-star cast, Office opens this Friday (9/18) in New York, at the AMC Empire.
Labels: Chow Yun-fat, Johnnie To, Sylvia Chang, Tang Wei