Thursday, April 15, 2021

Touch Review: A Promising Start Cannot Massage The Lumps Of The Second Half

Aleksandra Szczepanowska	...	Fei Fei Jun Yang	Jun Yang	...	Zhang Hua Jiangwei Yuan	Jiangwei Yuan	...	Bai Yu Beckhan	Beckhan	...	Mo Mo Aixian Teng	Aixian Teng	...	Nanny Yuqiao Liu	Yuqiao Liu	...	Ming Zhu Yahui Liu	Yahui Liu	...	Bing Qiao

Release date: June 7, 2020
Running time: 97 minutes
Written and Directed By: Aleksandra Szczepanowska
Starring: Aleksandra Szczepanowska, Jun Yang, Jiangwei Yuan

Fei Fei (Szczepanowksa), a married Caucasian western woman meets Bai Yu (Yuan), a Chinese blind masseur. When they come together in an intense love affair they find the demons they've created implode in a clash of violent impulses.

Produced by  Gordon Shearer	...	executive producer Aleksandra Szczepanowska	...	executive producer / producerMusic by  Andrew Barkan	Cinematography by  Wei Ji	Film Editing by  Zimo Huang	 Xue Xue	Art Direction by  Wei Wu	Costume Design by  Wei Zhou	Makeup Department  Liping Cheng	...	hair and makeup head
I think the most interesting aspect of Touch for me was seeing Szczepanowksa's take on being a foreigner in China.  Being American and living in a very America-centric world, I was fascinated to see some of the issues that Fei Fei encountered trying to adopt China as her home country.  The distrust that she experienced, the endless bureaucracy, and the fact that if she was someone of important cultural character, she could have been pushed to the front of the line were all issues that I was fascinated to see.  I also loved seeing her interact with her Chinese friends early in the film, some of the banter that they had, and how she adopted a Chinese name, a perfectly normal occurrence for Chinese people living in America but also one I had never thought of for immigrants to China.  

And the movie builds on this interesting start to emphasize Fei Fei's loneliness and disconnection with her adopted homeland.  She wants to be treated equally with those around her, but is thwarted by Chinese culture and customs.  I loved when she tried to converse with the men at a party but was gently and not so gently rebuked by her husband.  And even when she meets Bai Yu, the build up is interesting.  I liked the connection to her loneliness and how that connected to her desire to continue her massage sessions.

However, the film transitions after she meets Bai Yu into something more akin to a horror thriller.  Although I appreciated the love affair aspects with Bai Yu, that progression felt a little quick and disproportionate to their respective interests.  I couldn't understand why she was risking so much but gave it the benefit of the doubt.  However, when the movie turns into a horror thriller, the film goes off the deep end.  Bai Yu seems almost omnipotent and moves like a villain in most horror films, which was strange to me because he cannot see.  The film hints that maybe he has some vision or uses his other sense to accomplish this, but even with this his movements and tactics feel too unrealistic.  And Fei Fei's fear and obsession over this also feels a bit extreme.  I appreciated what the film was trying to do, but I found the cultural aspects of the earlier part of the movie to be completely abandoned when it moves into its thriller side.  And the thriller parts weren't unsettling enough or realistic enough to keep my attention after it made this transition.

Touch's promising premise, strong performance by Szczepanowska, and interesting cultural perspective on China are dulled in the second half switch to erotic thriller.

Rent it.

Directed by  Aleksandra Szczepanowska	Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)   Aleksandra Szczepanowska
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Touch is playing in festivals around the world and should be in general release later in 2021.

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