starring Liao Fan, Li Haibin, Dong Lifan, Li Congxi
written and directed by Liu Fendou
by Walter Chaw Liu Fendou's Green Hat opens with a jab: a man on a beach muses about the difference between an art film and a popular film, and he does so by pondering the place of masturbation in polite conversation. In a nutshell, Fendou provides the madness and the method for his directorial debut, an onanistic roundelay concerning the nature of love that begins with another bank robber (sigh) who finds out he's been doing it all for a love he's been cuckolded to, proceeds with the impotent cop who bears witness to the last moments of the robber's life, and finishes with the audience's dawning understanding that Fendou is probably attacking the hypocrisy of the myth of masculinity. Guns and intimidation rule the first portion, castration and humiliation rule the second, and, armed with the knowledge that Fendou originally envisioned a trilogy of short films instead of this schizophrenic vehicle, Green Hat's maddening emptiness swims into focus. The whole thing is a self-satisfied exercise in militant cinema (militant in the face of repressive regime--and not our repressive regime) loaded down with the worst of independent film (talkiness, quirkiness for quirk's sake) and the worst of mainstream, too (gunplay, sexplay). Green Hat is a bad, disjointed film, but sadly just another example of the direction that Chinese cinema has taken, with few exceptions, since Hong Kong slid back under the Mainland's control. Originally published: October 22, 2004.