The Great Buddha+

The Great Buddha+

Mon October 28, 7:30 PM

Muenzinger Auditorium

Underlining the gap between have-nots' lives and elites' world by switching between black and white and glamorous colors, THE GREAT BUDDHA+ vividly illustrates a corrupted village in rural southern Taiwan with memorable style, heartfelt empathy, and whimsical humor. Security guard Pickle and his trash collector friend Belly Button kill time together in night shifts watching the American-educated boss's dash-cam recordings of his various sexual encounters with women. Against the buddies’ will, something horrifying rather than erotic reveals.

As savagely satirical as it is gorgeously surreal, “The Great Buddha+” is something else again — an outrageous, poignant punk Taiwanese black comedy marking the feature arrival of fresh filmmaking talent Huang Hsin-Yao.

Shot predominantly in crisp black and white that’s tonally reminiscent of early Jim Jarmusch, the picture is set in the small rural Southern Taiwan village home to laid-back Belly Button (Bamboo Chen).

When not making a meager living collecting trash, he hangs out with security guard Pickle (Cres Chuang), watching color dashcam footage pilfered from the car belonging to his elitist, American-educated boss, Kevin (Leon Dai), whose unseen sexual conquests make for a provocative soundtrack. But the voyeuristic distraction inevitably uncovers darker truths surrounding Kevin and the equally corrupt village.

Along the way, director Huang, who expanded the film from his similarly named 2014 short, periodically chimes in to offer helpful character backstories and dry commentary, occasionally introduced with “Dear audience members R30;”

While amusingly breaking that fourth wall, Taiwan’s official Oscar submission also doesn’t shy away from acknowledging the formidable wall that exists between the privileged and the exploited, taking unambiguous aim at the political and religious hypocrisies that serve to further extend the class divide.

Huang’s tongue may be planted firmly in his cheek, but his heart is unerringly in the right place.

— Michael Rechtshaffen, Los Angeles Times

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