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Short Film Review: To Say Goodbye (2009) by Tan Chui Mui

To say goodbye still
"This is like a Murakami book"

” is part of a compilation of 7 short films that has written, directed and edited, and which she calls “”. She shot one every month in 2008, while developing her second feature film, “Year Without a Summer”

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The movie begins with Berg, a young man, smoking, while, Fei, a girl is calling his name, asking him to open the door while yelling that she loves him. Eventually she comes in, stating that it is her birthday, but he does not seem to care, or for her in particular. Instead of reacting to her, he continues using his pen nervously on something that looks like a sketch. She is obviously dressed up, in a red dress, and she keeps walking around his room, while he tries to constrain his nerves, by ignoring her. Nothing seems to phase her though and eventually she convinces him to take a ride in her bike into the night. The “date” however, does not go as planned.

Check the interview with the director

Tan Chui Mui directs a short that presents a rather amusing role reversal, with the girl being the one doing the forceful flirting, and the boy being the annoyed voice of reason. That he eventually ends up in a secluded area with her, essentially pleading her to take him back, intensifies this aspect even more, as much as her reaction, and particularly her asking if he is gay. Eventually, her reasoning, and particularly the way she likes him start to make sense, with art, and particularly a painting, becoming the point of focus, and the reason she opens up about her past. This aspect adds a dramatic element to the narrative, that also works well. At the same time, one can only wonder, ‘who would be with that girl after all that?' even if her pushing does get her some result eventually, bringing us back to the role reversal aspect.

The ending on the other hand, is as surprising as it is fitting, in a truly great closing of a rather intriguing short.

The whole 13 minutes of the movie seem to be taking place in natural darkness, with the majority of scenes being barely lit, something that forces the focus to be on Fei's red dress, a ‘trope” that DP takes advantage fully in order to highlight who the protagonist is. A couple of panoramic shots of the city add an element of beauty in the otherwise minimalistic short, while the close ups to Fei's face add a sense of mystery to her, that points towards a noir in a way, as does the whole film actually. Mui's editing is part of the narrative and the humor, with the cuts adding to both.

The antithetical chemistry of as Fei and as Berg works quite well, with her pushy, dreamy, and willing to open up demeanor coming in direct clash with his annoyance, exasperation, and perplexion about the girl. The ending, however, presents a completely different side, that definitely changes the viewer's perspective of him.

“To Say Goodbye” is an excellent short, one that shows how a 13-minute film can present a full story and a thorough analysis of its characters, and not something that looks like it was cut short due to lack of funding. Tan Chui Mui proves her prowess in the particular style of filmmaking once more.

About the author

Panos Kotzathanasis

Panagiotis (Panos) Kotzathanasis is a film critic and reviewer, specialized in Asian Cinema. He is the owner and administrator of Asian Movie Pulse, one of the biggest portals dealing with Asian cinema. He is a frequent writer in Hancinema, Taste of Cinema, and his texts can be found in a number of other publications including SIRP in Estonia, Film.sk in Slovakia, Asian Dialogue in the UK, Cinefil in Japan and Filmbuff in India.

Since 2019, he cooperates with Thessaloniki Cinematheque in Greece, curating various tributes to Asian cinema. He has participated, with video recordings and text, on a number of Asian movie releases, for Spectrum, Dekanalog and Error 4444. He has taken part as an expert on the Erasmus+ program, “Asian Cinema Education”, on the Asian Cinema Education International Journalism and Film Criticism Course.

Apart from a member of FIPRESCI and the Greek Cinema Critics Association, he is also a member of NETPAC, the Hellenic Film Academy and the Online Film Critics Association.

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