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Film Review: Lost in the Stars (2022) by Cui Rui and Liu Xiang

Lost in the Stars Yilong Zhu Ni Ni Janice Man
"I was born inferior"

Adapted from Alexey Korenev's 1990 Soviet comedy film “A Trap for Lonely Man” and French playwright Robert Thomas' 1960 play “Trap for a Lonely Man” (Piege Pour un Homme Seul), “” is a truly delirious title which implements a story filled with twists in a visually impressive package. The film premiered at the Hainan International Film Festival on 25 December 2022 and released theatrically in China on 22 June 2023 to commercial success, amassing more than $485 million internationally.

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He Fei and his wife Li Muzi are celebrating the first anniversary of their marriage at an island resort in Barlandia, a fictional Southeast Asian country that appears to have Malay and Thai as their official languages. However, at some point, Li Muzi disappears, and this is where the movie actually begins, with He Fei in the local police precinct trying to convince them to open a missing person case, and being ignored by the understaffed authorities. However, a man named Officer Zheng, who is fluent in Chinese, tells He Fei that he will help him, and asks him to reach out the next day. When He Fei wakes up though, he finds an unknown woman sleeping next to him, who insists she is actually Muzi. 

Out of his mind with anger and perplexedness, he tries to convince Zheng and the authorities that he is the victim of some kind of scam, but finds all the proofs actually pointing towards the woman being Muzi. Eventually, he learns about a famous lawyer in town, Chen Mai, and desperately asks her to take his case. The two of them together start researching, uncovering a series of disturbing details, which do include, however, He Fei's own past. 

First things first, the story is filled with plot holes and does not stand to any kind of scrutiny, even with the ending actually tying up a number of loose ends. Nevertheless, this is not exactly an issue, since the whole approach and implement here is unfolding the story as something between a dream and a nightmare, something that essentially plays in the minds of the protagonists, and not necessarily on reality. It is this approach that allows the movie to remain entertaining from beginning to end, which seems to be what the directors were going for, and the box office clearly rewarded them for their effort. 

The first factor that plays a significant role in this is definitely the visuals. The combination of Cheng Zheng's art direction and costume design, the coloring, the visual effects, and the overall rather polished cinematography by DP Shan He result in a series of truly impressive images, with the frames occasionally having painting-like quality, and the whole connection with Van Gogh's “The Starry Night” cementing the fact. It also helps that the three main protagonists are all particularly good looking, and actually play with the fact in order to make their characters more appealing to the eye. Yilong Zhu as He Fei, Ni Ni as Chen Mai, Janice Man as his ‘new wife' and Kay Huang as the old, are all easy to the , with the way their personas transform throughout the movie adding even more to the entertainment the film offers. 

The action scenes, and in general the moments of tension are also particularly well-shot, with the meta level working nicely here too, and the occasional music video aesthetics adding even more to the eye-candy style of the film. Lastly, the locations are equally impressive, and Tang Hongjia's editing places the various flashbacks and their connection with the twists in the story in a timely fashion, while retaining a fitting, quite fast pace. One could say that the combination of visuals, narrative, and editing moves somewhere between “13:Game of Death” and “”, even if the end result differs significantly.

Truth be told, “Lost in the Stars” would be better if the directors took the whole narrative less seriously, but even so, the result is definitely entertaining, as much as it is pleasant to the eyes. All in all, a rather fun movie. 

About the author

Panos Kotzathanasis

My name is Panos Kotzathanasis and I am Greek. Being a fan of Asian cinema and especially of Chinese kung fu and Japanese samurai movies since I was a little kid, I cultivated that love during my adolescence, to extend to the whole of SE Asia.

Starting from my own blog in Greek, I then moved on to write for some of the major publications in Greece, and in a number of websites dealing with (Asian) cinema, such as Taste of Cinema, Hancinema, EasternKicks, Chinese Policy Institute, and of course, Asian Movie Pulse. in which I still continue to contribute.

In the beginning of 2017, I launched my own website, Asian Film Vault, which I merged in 2018 with Asian Movie Pulse, creating the most complete website about the Asian movie industry, as it deals with almost every country from East and South Asia, and definitely all genres.

You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

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