Directed by Huang Hsin-yao
From Taiwan, and mostly shot with a lucid black-and-white mesmerism, “The Great Buddha +” is an appealing comedy-drama bolstered by the noir tones of crime. Its story develops slowly yet assuredly.
Exploring both the philosophic side of life and the mundane world of concupiscence, the debut feature of Huang Hsin-yao, who occasionally narrates at his convenience, was expanded from his 2014 short film of the same name, depicting friendship in a zany way, but with enough personality to make us care.
Crane-games aficionado and day-time recycling collector Belly Button (Bamboo Chen) is often timid, but loses any inhibition whenever he is in the company of his friend Pickle (Cres Chuang). The latter works as a night watchman in a Buddha statue factory where he spends incessantly rainy nights around adult magazines together with his friend. Pickle’s wealthy boss, Kevin Huang (Leon Dai) is usually away, amused with his new sweetheart Gucci (JC Lei), a mixed-race beauty who loves to be called ‘puta’ when having sex in the car. However, his former lover, Yeh Feng-ju (Ting Kuo-lin), a mature yet possessive woman in her forties, demands more attention from him. The imbroglio ends up in a hideous crime, which Pickle and Belly Button had the opportunity to [witness] through the colorful images captured by a dash-cam placed in Kevin’s luxurious Mercedes.
It’s curious to see how different the two friends are. While Belly Button can’t refrain curiosity, becoming genuinely astonished by the course of events while yearning for Kevin's colorful lifestyle, Pickle is a modest man who never complains about anything. He is more concerned with his sick octogenarian mother and prefers not to meddle in his boss’ business.
Even with a few uneven episodes, the satire focuses on social class gaps and shapes into an important statement against political corruption and abusive influence in the contemporary Taiwanese society. Darkly funny and with an uncanny finale, “The Great Buddha +”, the sensation of the 54th Golden Horse Awards, provides an unusual yet incisive look at the mentioned predicaments.