Drowsy City (Thanh Pho Ngu Gat, 2020)
Director (and writer): Dung Luong Dinh
Cast: Hien Le Thuy, Toan Nguyen Quoc, Tue Ta Xuan, Tri Vu Minh
A young man who works as a slaughterman is forced to take revenge on three strangers that brutally attack his simple life. – IMDB
Drowsy City is an interesting Vietnamese film because of the bizarre main character as well as how they choose to have a specific disclaimer at the beginning of the film about its visual effects, post-production as well as the focus of its film being about the humans and not the chickens/ducks. I’m no post-production or visual effects expert and rarely focus too much on it plus the only point I will make is that it wasn’t overly graphic in the chicken slaughtering scenes except for the parts where they pour boiling water over the chicken that gets a little disturbing. In reality, the slaughtering process comes into play with the main character on hand and how the whole revenge plays out in his perspective. My only suggestion for any potential viewers is that if that seems like something that bothers you, then it might be one to avoid. I might not find it graphic but everyone’s tolerance for this is difference.
Drowsy City features some beautiful cinematography. It films the city of Hanoi which bursts with rich colors from its overhead shots that pan over the city as well as the art on the buildings and the pop of color even in the simple apartment that the main character Tao lives, which remains nameless for most of the film. The cinematography highlights the crowdedness of the city as well as the characteristics. In some shots, it almost feels like the camera is angled to be like a surveillance camera much like Tao who spies into three gangsters that hide in an abandoned building that he lives in (or maybe next to) with its upper corner angles in a room.
Drowsy City isn’t a character study but at the same time, Tao is an odd character. It lives alone and everything is a simple routine from slaughtering chickens to using the chicken feathers to create different items of entertainment like darts or clothing on mannequins. He also feels odd because he sleeps in his bathtub filled in water that he would use int he daytime for his job. As his character progresses from being bullied by the three gangsters and being tempted by their prostitute, her simple life is changed and it becomes apparent that his life as a chicken slaughterer is rooted very deep into his mentality and it reflects into this very bizarre revenge plan. It turns into this confusing moment of whether he is a cruel person despite his actions as he seems to also have a great care for a hen that he takes care of and the chicks that eventually hatch. I’m going to say right away that the ending they chose for this one usually is one that would not something that I particularly prefer but somehow in this case, it seems fitting.
Being no expert of Vietnamese movies, Drowsy City is an odd movie experience. The cinematography is outstanding and the character of Tao is very unique in the most bizarre way. The revenge is also executed in an oddly memorable fashion because its very different form what would be expected. Its definitely not for anyone but at the same time, as quiet as the whole experience and even Tao’s character, which has almost no dialogue, the movie runs at a swift 70 minutes. Bizarre and one of a kind: that’s two very important descriptors of this film and to truly expect the unexpected because things get wild.
* Drowsy City is playing virtually on Festival du Nouveau Cinema and is available until October 31st*