Look! It Moves! At The NYAFF: High-Concept Noir Thriller 'Blood of Youth'

Yang Shupeng is considered a maverick director in China, a former fireman-turned-self-taught-filmmaker who has made three accomplished period movies before this. Now he tackles not only his first present-day film, but also the noir thriller genre with Blood of Youth.

Blood of Youth

Blood of Youth follows a computer hacker who weaves a tangled web that draws in a violent bank robber, a pair of barely-competent cops, the doctor who treats his worsening health, her orchestra conductor husband, and a decade-long unsolved murder. He tips the cops off to the robber's latest job, then tips the robber off right before the cops move in so he can enlist his help.

The hacker suffered brain damage at the hands of a bully at the orphanage he grew up in, and with his days numbered, he's hatched a scheme to help the girl he fell in love with there. She's agreed to help him, and is playing a game with the conductor, an abusive, emotionally stunted celebrity who's part of the city's high life. Our hacker has also convinced the bank robber there's money to be made if he helps him out on this long game. Meanwhile, the cops are slowly piecing together the clues to a newly unearthed body found in the woods.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GdQbPw3YGE

So far, so complicated. For a self-taught filmmaker who never went to film school, he's every bit as slick and technically accomplished as any Hong Kong action director. There's a deft touch to his camerawork, and the editing, lighting, art direction are all as good as any movie. This just shows that China is now up to the standards of the types of thrillers Hollywood and the West make these days — including the flaws.

Look! It Moves! At The NYAFF: High-Concept Noir Thriller 'Blood of Youth'

And alas, Blood of Youth has massive flaws. For starters, it falls headfirst into the "mastermind is near-omniscient in the way he can predict exactly how a bunch of different people will act" plot that can never happen. The characters keep acting in ways real people would not act in real life.

The other huge problem I had with this movie is the sexism and awful misogyny — women in this movie are reserved for victims of abuse and assault, and dead bodies. I don't believe Blood of Youth is meant to be an indictment of the abuse of women; it's too shallow for that. It's only out to tell a clever, twisty story, except it's not that clever and its twists are all based on cheats where the characters are more chess pieces than people. It purposely hides major details of the story and the characters' motivations and histories in order to keep us in the dark before the big ta-da reveal at the end. So for all the slickness, it really doesn't really say much at all other than a dark, nihilistic, and shameless exercise in audience manipulation.

On to the next films in the festival, and I'm sure there will be better ones.

Not hacking this one at lookitmoves@gmail.com.

Follow the official LOOK! IT MOVES! Twitter feed at http://twitter.com/lookitmoves for thoughts and snark on media and pop culture, stuff for future columns, and stuff I may never spend a whole column writing about.

Look! It Moves! © Adisakdi Tantimedh

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About Adi Tantimedh

Adi Tantimedh is a filmmaker, screenwriter and novelist who just likes to writer. He wrote radio plays for the BBC Radio, “JLA: Age of Wonder” for DC Comics, “Blackshirt” for Moonstone Books, and “La Muse” for Big Head Press. Most recently, he wrote “Her Nightly Embrace”, “Her Beautiful Monster” and “Her Fugitive Heart”, a trilogy of novels featuring a British-Indian private eye published by Atria Books, a division Simon & Schuster.
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