Second Life of Thieves

Second Life of Thieves
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Second Life of Thieves

Sono diversi i temi che affronta questo poetico e melanconico film. Una voce fuori campo, questa volta non ridondante, ci aiuta a seguirli e comprenderli. Il protagonista è Tan (Chung Kok Keong), funzionario capo di un piccolo villaggio costiero della Malesia, alle prese con due gravi eventi che lo coinvolgono sia nel suo lavore che nella sua vita privata. Succede infatti che alcuni lavoratori immigrati spariscano o vengano trovati morti. Tan, impegnato a risolvere questi casi, si fa aiutare da un agente di polizia locale (Azman Hassan), mentre sembra che l’amministrazione centrale non sia molto interessata. Contemporaneamente scompaiono sia la moglie di Tan che il suo vecchio amico d’infanzia Lai. Per risolvere questa scomparsa Tan si fa aiutare dalla figlia di Lai, Sandy. Durante queste indagini riaffiora la storia dell’amore segreto tra i giovani Tan (JY Teng) e Lai (Berg Lee) che vediamo in lunghi flashback (dove i colori assumono un delicato tono pastello)… Come dicevamo le voci fuori campo dei protagonisti commentano questi eventi, facendoci riflettere sulla natura dell’amore, sui tanti segreti di ognuno, sull’amore proibito, quello omosessuale, sul tradimento e sulla morte, accompagnata da bellissime immagini del paesaggio rurale. Punto debole una recitazione a volte poco spontanea, e qualche difficoltà a seguire inizialmente la vicenda.




Village chief Tan is busy. His wife and best friend Lai have mysteriously disappeared and an undocumented worker is dead. While awaiting their return, Tan and Lai’s daughter, Sandy, develop an unlikely friendship that opens old wounds and examines the nature of love and regret.


My uncle passed away from mysterious circumstances in 2006. He had lived a fairly distant and inconsequential life, at least to my eyes. Married but without children, he treated my aunt, whom he had been arranged to marry, with the kind of indifference accorded to a stray dog wondering the streets. He was often stoic to a point of apathy at family gatherings, always appearing out of his skin, his eyes unfocused, not in the present.
It was only in 2012 that I discovered he had died of AIDS, a fairly uncommon demise in the town he lived in. Soon little details began to emerge. Beneath the constant alcoholic state he was in, he had another life, one that stayed hidden, suppressed beyond the depths no humanity could sustain for long. The truth about him did not make him stronger, it broke him. The reality is, he could’ve done nothing more. Where he lived, his family, none of them would’ve accepted him coming out. It was not an option to him. Of this I am certain. And thus the eyes perpetually glazed with a mixture of Guinness (his drink of choice), and a sort of sadness none of us could ever comprehend. This film is inspired by his life, however inconsequential it may have been.


Tan, il capo di un villaggio malese sul mare, scopre che la moglie e il suo vecchio amico Lai, sono spariti lasciandolo con Sandy, la figlia di Lai. Successivamente alla misteriosa scomparsa una serie di omicidi inspiegabili inizia a verificarsi nella zona. Relegato nel passato, un segreto che lega Tan e Lai potrebbe spiegare tutto. L’unica soluzione è mettersi ad indagare sulla doppia sparizione contando su Sandy, con la quale, malgrado la reciproca diffidenza e la scarsa simpatia, si trova a doversi alleare. Per entrambi inizierà un viaggio a ritroso ricco di sconvolgimenti emotivi. Elegante, poetico e quasi senza tempo, il cinema di Woo Ming Jin, uno dei più famosi registi malesi, introduce il tema dell’omosessualità (molto rischioso nel suo Paese) in una ragnatela di eventi appassionante come un thriller. A fare da sfondo paesaggi idilliaci che, però, nascondono terribili segreti, dove l’isolamento geografico è sinonimo di stasi temporale, di immobilità degli eventi. (Togay)


A melancholic malaise permeates the incredibly subdued and softly told Second Life of Thieves, the latest feature from Malaysian director Woo Ming Jin. Set in the sweltered confines of a seaside village, the film transgresses past and present confidently. Initially confusing, later scenes inform previous ones. The premise of the film itself is one of general taboo, exploring forbidden (homosexual) love and lust, but it can also be read as a powerful love story about coping with losing a significant other.
Tan discovers that his wife and childhood friend, Lai have fled the village together. Betrayed and heartbroken he is left with Lai’s wistful daughter Sandy. The film explores the complex relationships between all four of these characters and the massive change that has taken place in the thirty year time period.
The screenplay is fascinating, and although slow, you get a sense of the tragic epic tale that is unfolding. Although the film has a powerful sense of place and tone, it is unfortunately let down by the meandering pacing. This is odd given the films jumping between times. The voice-over exposition that works as the voices of regret and remembering are delivered monotonously by almost every protagonist. However, the device works to frame the different timelines.
The dour delivery of the narration is forgiveable, but the general acting leaves a lot to be desired. Almost every character, although filled with pain and anger come off as wooden and uncaring. Some line delivery is given almost no effort by secondary characters and the film loses its momentum due to this. Tan and Lai’s arguments are also barely believable. However, there are some wonderful moments between Tan and Sandy and some genuine tenderness portrayed in Tan and Lai’s homosexual relationship. These are mostly delivered in frank and desperate sex scenes that work in the films favour, they are not explicit but they capture the complexity of the situation and Tan’s confused state.
One simple yet powerful scene sees Tan embrace Sandy on the beach, he turns, smokes a cigarette and comes back to her, only, it is suddenly Lai he is passionately kissing. There are, however way too many sex scenes, underlying the point time and again to no real effect.
Despite these moments, the film then returns to a lethargic narrated scene soon after. The one note piano again, reflecting the despair, is overused in almost every key scene. The sound design is otherwise excellent, the natural sounds not only emphasizing the isolation but the awkward and pained silence between each character. The cinematography is often very striking, using classical framing against the seaside and the forests, it lustfully and breezily focuses on the doomed relationships, juxtaposing the tenderness and anger.
Second Life of Thieves has a great premise and is produced competently, but the screenplay Is impacted by the dour repetition and poor delivery of lines. However, as a study of melancholic love it is certainly worth pondering. (Kwenton Bellette,

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