Is it weird that cinema is almost entirely absent realistic presentations of office politics? Don’t expect Office, an office-drama-comedy-romance-musical from Hong Kong director Johnnie To to buck that trend. Realism is almost entirely avoided in this tale of ambition, set in the heady times of pre-GFC 2007 and staged on an abstract, artificial, gorgeous set (think a mix of Playtime and Dogville, except more neon).
There’s fun to be had here. Formally it’s incredibly impressive, using sweeping long shots and some intense short-lenses to accentuate the amazing sets. (More on the set: the wired soundstage surroundings remind me of a surveyor’s graph-paper schematic, which has to be intentional). This is my first To, and while I doubt it’s representative – he’s better known for cult gangster shenanigans – it certainly makes me want to see more of his work.
Shame about the rest, though. Chow Yun-fat phones in his lead performance and the musical numbers are pretty dire (with the usual proviso that I’m not a fan of musicals in general). The themes of the folly of greed, the selfishness of aspiration and the inherent sexism of the business world are too obvious to provide any particular insight. Still, it looks great.