Multi-Film Review by Lew Antoine
Film director and editor, Muyun Zhou, has made a name for herself serving up short films about familial relationships.
A pattern formed in two films – of which she directed and edited and one featuring her editing work alone.
The two standouts concern modern children dealing with their fathers. In To Be A Father, (written, directed and edited by Ms. Zhou) we meet young go-getting career woman played with all the bells and staccato whistles of an executive by Wanyoo Zhang making an uncomfortable visit to her father. One can see in the regal showing by Weiwei Meng, that she inherited the “headstrong” from him.
The film opens with dad paying a graveside visit to his wife. In something as simple as his posture, we see great grief and great power. A perfect juxtaposition occurred thanks to his dippy grin when he sees his daughter’s number on the phone and the conversation about her impending visit. One get the impression there was tension between them. One also gets the impression that both regret that tension. One also gets the impression that they both have no idea how to fix it. Zhou offers up some simple yet deeply moving imagery that – while only touching on the situation at hand – perfectly exemplifies it. The father in a frilly apron preparing far too much food; the daughter not taking her face out of her phone; lack of eye contact; small criticisms about onions prompting father to pick them off the food. Real exposition is released by chit-chat and through the deft lens of Zhou engrossing us in a heartbreaking reconciliation being attempted. A simple shot of an ashtray and the addition of an extra chair on the patio; dad explain a dream, daughter watching him walk down a staircase, and a whispered ending salutation, were all we needed to hold back tears.
The second, called Father – for which served exclusively as editor is a parable about a gay son and his father. Again, lots of tension and no exposition. Again, a mother passed away and a father trying his – albeit inept – best. Again, no deep discussion about sexuality, no preachy dialogue. Frankly, no actual admission that his son is gay. Simply a father trying his best to raise his child. This short film centered around a trip proposed by the son to go with a friend and how the father handles it. This film should be part of every LGBTQ film festival as what a caring parent should look like. In this case, it is in the clever rapid close-ups and cutaways and interesting eye-contact shots that offer insight into the relationship. The ending again offered up a caring connection between generations.
Both films offered no huge great panoramic moments; no soaring anything. Just the simple, deeply moving family dynamic done brilliantly by a young filmmaker and editor.
It would be a shame to not mention Zhou’s The Hole. This comedic O. Henry-style short film brings us to a common 9-to-5 style office and features a junior accountant with a secret. A barren full or red herrings lead us to a final scene that is both uproarious and unexpected. Here, again, clever cuts and close-up lead us quickly into this mystery with a gasp-inducing ending.
Muyun Zhou offers up no nonsense, deeply moving and engrossing works in a styles streamlined way. The film community should be watching her star rise.