Thursday, June 30, 2011

At the New York Asian Film Festival: Selling Out, the Musical

Posted By on Thu, Jun 30, 2011 at 11:24 AM

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The New York Asian Film Festival starts tomorrow! The Film Society of Lincoln Center hosts the series again, with several of the Japanese features also showing at Japan Society's Japan Cuts, starting next week. Sell Out screens tomorrow at 6pm, and again on the 4th of July.

Every movie about young artists struggling to stay true to their ideals should have the fire-in-your-guts venom that Malaysian writer/director Yeo Joon Han invests in Sell Out, a take-no-prisoners musical comedy about being young and disillusioned in a world where selling out is inevitable, planned obsolescence is a fact of life and contradicting your boss isn’t an option.

Everyone’s a loser in Sell Out, from the young inventor who fretfully installs a breakdown mechanism into his soybean juice maker for the sake of getting his product out into the market, to his boss, who insists that he can’t understand the inventor because he’s half-English and hence speaks with a British accent (“We’re a multi-national business conglomerate. Don’t speak half-English, speak full-English.”). Yeo even takes a dig at himself at the beginning of Sell Out, cameoing as a ponderous, self-indulgent director whose short film is released on DVD with a 5-hour director’s cut and “seven deleted scenes of added poetry.”

At the same time, Sell Out’s pitiless comedy is a double-edged sword. Its final act is too scattershot—even if its events do inspire Yeo to create something as delightfully cutthroat as a reality show where viewers vote for which contestant should die on-air by episode’s end. After all, any movie with a line as catty as, “You know what they say: behind every successful woman is a jealous, back-stabbing bitch,” has to be doing something right.

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