GODDAMNED ASURA

★★★

SEARCHING FOR CONNECTION IN TAIWAN

TAIWAN FILM FESTIVAL IN AUSTRALIA REVIEW
By Jake Watt
12th August 2022

Because movies are a global art form, it's not surprising that filmmakers like Lou Yi-an get interested in how stories connect us as human beings. Much like life itself, which can sometimes be a cacophony of unrelated events that ultimately form a sweeping symphony, 'Goddamned Asura' brings strangers together to dream the same collective dream.

Vita (Huang Pei-jia) is an ad executive assigned to market a World of Warcraft-esque massively multiplayer online game called King's World. Her slacker fiancé Sheng (Lai Hao-che) is a King's World livestreamer who works as an urban renewal officer for the city. While online, he sleazes up to a tough teenage girl named Zero (Wang Yu-xuan), another gamer who lives in the complex with her alcoholic mother. Meanwhile, Mold (Mo Tzu-yi) is a journalist researching a story on urban renewal of a low-income housing complex. Teenagers Jan Wen (Joseph Huang) and Xing (Devin Pan) are the creators of a popular webcomic that takes place in King's World, while both deal with identity crises of their own.

'GODDAMNED ASURA' TRAILER

When Jan Wen, about to be forced by his strict father to study abroad, shoots a man in a night market on his 18th birthday and is caught by Mold, the lives of these strangers are irrevocably intertwined.

Lou Yi-an paints an atmospheric picture of a city of tiny prisons, interspersing the film's central drama with melancholic shots of cramped apartments and busy office blocks. Its citizens are all desperate to make some kind of connection, on a human level, perhaps explaining the popularity of King's World. It's a community of disparate individuals, and the film gets off on the unexpected magnetic pull of bringing mismatched souls into the same orbit. The director does it without being cloying - enamoured by humanity while remaining deeply, brutally realistic about people's potential for crappiness. However, it never becomes a cynical or bleak portrait of disaffected youth, like Isao Yukisada's 'River's Edge' or Tetsuya Nakashima's 'Confessions'.

Lou Yi-an paints an atmospheric picture of a city of tiny prisons. Its citizens are all desperate to make some kind of connection, on a human level, perhaps explaining the popularity of King's World.

Both an expertly crafted multi-strand, big-swing character drama and a portrait of non-glamorous Taiwan, 'Goddamned Asura' is an impressive piece of work from Lou Yi-an.

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