Journey to the West ★★★½


Saw this before "Walker" (and without knowing it's more or less an expansion of same) and thought "it's an excellent 20-minute short that just happens to run for an hour, because it has to." Having now seen "Walker," I think the idea does work better at even more of a crawl, and with the tiny narrative fillip provided by Lavant. Compositions are consistently magnificent enough to remain absorbing even when it takes Lee nine or ten minutes to traverse the frame, and spectator reactions (which I assume are spontaneous, but wouldn't be disappointed to learn were mediated), especially that of the one little girl on the stairwell, prove richer and more thought-provoking here. Main reason I'm not even more enthused is that the film seems to have an easily digestible Buddhist message, viz. "be mindful of your existence"; there are two or three (superb) shots in which neither Lee nor Lavant appears (I don't think—Lee does show up at the very end of the final shot), which are designed primarily to disorient us into seeing the world anew—a benign form of pedanticism, to be sure, but a little pedantic nonetheless. Also, I've rated this because it's feature-length by my rules, but in my mind it's really a short film. That's how it plays. It's just verrrrry attenuated.