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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
One of the BestAug. 22 2007
- Published on Amazon.com
Charlene Choi is a schizophrenic woman obsessed with another man (played by Shawn Yue) in this film by director Oxide Pang. The condition of schizophrenia is given ample attention and the script is exceedingly well-written and complex. The visuals are dark with limited (yet effective) use of CGI to communicate important elements to the viewer. There are a lot of twists and turns within this originally structured storyline, but in the end they are all logical extensions when the film is studied and understood properly. This is one of the best horror films I've ever had the pleasure of watching.
If Gillian Chung had her breakthrough performance in Beyond Our Ken (2004), then Charlene Choi has now officially had her breakthrough performance in Diary (2006). She's practically unrecognizable from her previous roles. She's psychologically fragile, obsessive, desperate, subtle, and very unstable. In other words, she's fantastic.
The cinematography and settings are gorgeous, using a variety of techniques to create a dim, murky atmosphere. Some scenes are in black-and-white, while others are shot with restricted colors. The overall feel of the film reminded me of Kiyoshi Kurosawa's work, absent the ambient soundtrack - Oxide uses his trademark horror beats to great effect here. The limited CGI is very fantasy-like, which is interesting considering the fact that it occurs within an apartment. Basically, Diary is eye candy from minute one.
It is ironic that all of the great storytelling that was lacking from Re-Cycle (2006) has miraculously appeared in Diary. It's almost as if the Pangs decided to sacrifice the former for the latter, because Diary simply could not be written more effectively. It acts like a mystery that slowly reveals itself until the very last frame. There is a significant focus on character perspective and subjectivity that ultimately provides the driving force.
Most of the reviews I've read have been positive. However, some have taken issue with the structure that Oxide chose to use. Needless to say, it's wacked out and totally different than most movies. I don't want to get too specific, but all I will say is that I thought the movie had ended a number of times before it actually did. Fortunately, all of those "extra" scenes were the best parts. I personally think that the critics are misguided, since the weird format works very well.
Let's put it this way. I've seen over 130 East Asian horror films, and Diary ranks among the top 5.
Understanding and following 'Diary' comes much easier than attempting to clearly explain it. The film delves into the world of a young lady whose recent break up has left her evidently uneasy, neurotic and insecure. These attributes are acted out in a great manner even while reading along with the subtitles. Throughout the movie, you feel different emotions toward the main character and thanks to the great story and the substance it provides, you are able to be drawn in close to the characters. The film is shot very nicely with great uses of flashbacks when needed and even an obscure flash back that takes you through a second phase of the movie.
While the movie, for me, is difficult to explain it is one that I really enjoyed watching and was able to follow. This for me signifies a successful and great film. It takes a dark, schizophrenic and insecure world and through its layered visions and immense angst, weaves a story that has you questioning what you're seeing and what you're believing.
To explain the film is beyond me and simply, there are plenty of movie and plot summaries out there. But as a movie, I think this is a very successful film and a great entry in the catalog of the Pang's. It is wonderfully shot, edited and produced nicely, with superb acting, an in-depth plot with enough uncertainty and twists to keep me satisfied and was truly an enjoyment to watch.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A masterpiece of sight, sound, and sadnessJuly 16 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
Criticisms of the writing and screenplay aside, this is an engaging film on the surface. I loved it even though I didn't get it. The creative camera angles, the mostly gray/green color palette accentuating a sense of disease or decay, the original music and sound design, and the beauty of the actors add up to a sensuous ninety minute delight. At times the film seemed adrift on a sea of music carried along by the score instead of leading it, while at other times the conspicuous absence of any sound almost embarrasses the viewer in moments of voyeuristic character study. Having said that, there isn't much depth or background to the characters in Diary, but the focus on their moments of here and now is sharp and clear.
Charlene Choi is magnificent as the schizophrenic, sad and lonely Winnie. Her face has a beauty suited to smoldering evil or desperate sadness inside, and she presents this facade so convincingly that in her very few, very brief moments of happiness, the shy and hopeful smile that accompanies the change evokes the poetic innocence of a rescued child. It's captivating and magnetic. It draws the viewer into a collaborative dream of promise that when quickly and sadly broken the feeling of empathy is profound. That's good acting and directing.
***SPOILER ALERT*** The ending very clearly presents a major twist. The cast credits only three people, so one must conclude that the real instigator was Winnie's neighbor but it sure didn't look like the same person to me. Her character was presented as a likely ne'er do well, but I'm not sure if it was her or if it was some alter ego, some schizophrenic other personality of Winnie. ***END SPOILER*** I think the ending twist was unnecessary and even though I didn't grasp the director's intent, it didn't bother me remotely enough to spoil the film.
Another aspect of the sensuousness of this film concerns the language and subtitles. This is a Hong Kong film, the language is Cantonese. I understand about three words of Cantonese but find the language wonderfully lyrical. Even in the few instances where the characters scream at one another there is a musicality to it. Most of the film drifts along like the melody of a bedtime lullaby, perhaps a byproduct of Charlene Choi's other profession as a (rather famous in Hong Kong) canto-pop singer.
Concerning the English subtitles--at least the set that accompanied the film I watched. Subtitles are often a spongey issue. I imagine that one of two things are usually expected: that they are translationally accurate or that they convey more accurately the mood and intent of the speaker. One phrase uttered several times in this film by Winnie is, "I like to make puppets as I always think they are able to share with me". I don't know what that means because it could mean so many thing--in context or out of context. I can only hope the native language meaning is also as wonderfully ambiguous.
Anyone familiar with someone learning English as a second language has experienced moments of questionable grammar that are crystal clear in meaning and intent. Because I find the rub of language so fascinating, I'm glad the subtitles appear to have been done by someone whose English was a second language. There are many examples, but a few gems for me were: "I like to make puppets and write my diary", "Do you have an affair?" (for, Are you having an affair?), "She instigated me!", and my favorite, "Seth often complained of my cookery." (You'll have to see the movie to enjoy the full impact of that last one.)
Diary is for the most part a dark and moody mellow drama. But Oxide Pang throws in a little horror scene, a very common practice in much of Asian cinema. I like to call it genre-hopping. I love the way he fuses a very sensual moment with fangs.
This may just be one of the best " horror " films ever made!March 19 2015
John M. Zaranka
- Published on Amazon.com
It is definitely one of the top three from asia. You MUST stick with this film. I just started smiling as I wrote that because the move is very boring at the beginning, but the payoff is unlike anything I have seen. You need to pay attention to the slow moving start because it makes the end so amazing. You often read reviews about how a film has twists and turns. None of them can hold a candle to "Diary." I bought the DVD so I had to finish it. An early saving grace is knowing it was written, directed and produced by The Pang bros.(The Eye) I often think I know what's going to happen. This has an end that had me go from whoa to WOW then OMGosh as the layers are revealed. I'll just say thee things to watch. The wall, the knack and P.D. Get this!!! JZ
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Hot Charlene From The Hot TWINSApril 5 2013
- Published on Amazon.com
This is the film that introduced me to the hot Charlene Choi from the Chinese pop duo TWINS. Fell in love with this film at first watch, and the twist at the end was the seal and approval. Charlene does a superb job in playing a disturbed and troubled character, a horror film at a slow pace, but with tension and edge-of-your-seat scary. If you like the original "The Eye" from the Pang Brothers, then you will enjoy this excellent film from Oxide Pang. The hot Charlene Choi being the lead in this already excellent film was the icing on the cake.