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OVER THE EDGE, Tsui Hark's Don't Play With Fire
Don't Play With Fire is truly Punk 1/1 - Page 1
Info
Author(s) : Chris Vaillancourt
Date : 1/6/2002
Type(s) : Review
 
 Intext Links  
People :
Tsui Hark
Movies :
Dangerous Encounter - 1st Kind
 
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 Notes  
Sources:
Tony Rayns quote in Sight & Sound, UK.
"The Big Heat" by Frederic Bonnaud, Les Inrockuptibles, France, no. 98, pg.38


Your guide: a young, terminally angry Tsui Hark. Forever trailed by controversy, the censorship of Don't Play With Fire (aka Dangerous Encounters… First Kind) is a well-known story. Hong Kong film censors forced Tsui Hark to alter the film, changing the teen boys from bomb-hurling would-be revolutionaries to frightened hit-and-run drivers, and adding scenes of a local police force at work. The changes did little to diminish the film's ineffable anarchy and despair.
Don't Play With Fire is truly Punk
The most subversive aspects of the film lay less in its bleak view of Hong Kong as an island of barbed wire and chain-link fences, ugly high rises and endless concrete, populated exclusively by neurotics, degenerates and psychotics, or even Tsui Hark's casting of Americans and Britons as cardboard villains. The truly radical elements of Tsui's vision are to be found in his blending and upending of genres. To focus on Don't Play With Fire as some sort of call to arms to improve Hong Kong or as a truthful portrait of the colony's flaws and corruption is to ignore how outrageous and unrealistic much of the film is, a melange of grimy neo-realism, social satire, Langian film noir, horror, policier, teen angst and dark comedy.

The film hops between genres with the same nervous urgency it skips from one blood-soaked crisis to the next. Don't Play With Fire pulls off the trick of wearing its influences -including early Oshima (especially The Sun's Burial), Bunuel, gritty Italian and American cop films of the '70s, giallo (more than one critic has pointed to Mario Bava's Bay of Blood as the source of Tsui's "torturers become the tortured" aesthetic) and Roger Corman- while seeming completely sui generis. Don't Play With Fire is one of the few films that is truly Punk; like the best punk songs, the film is at once on love with its own gleeful nihilism, and appalled by it.
 
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