Shown as part of the Visible Secrets season at the Manchester Cornerhouse, Anna & Anna is a movie about what happens when Anna played by Karina Lam crosses paths with an alternate version of herself.
In the leaflet that I picked up about this season of movies, it mentioned that Karena Lam features more than any other performer. Well they were not wrong; she is in three of the four movies which I have the honour of reviewing. In each movie the impression I get is that the film crew absolutely adore Karina, the camera is more often than not, right in her face for long sultry-eyed shots where she gets away with barely saying a word. Not content with one Karena to drool over this movie features two of them with longer, lengthier silences which seem to last an age. Someone please yell cut for god’s sake! Anyway I digress, the point I would like to make here is that her omnipresence must mean that she is something of a star. Whilst watching this movie I had the tenuous thought that all stars at some point make a movie in which there are two of them (or more if you count Michael Keaton in the shite that was Multiplicity). Usually it is action guys like Jean Claude, Arnie and Jackie Chan that get to do the whole twin thing. But for its slow, considered, artfully shot shenanigans can Anna & Anna offer us anything more to think about than the slap-fest Twin Dragons? Read on to find out. (For those of you with less time to spare the answer is no.)
Anna #1 is a power dressing, mean spirited, city dwelling business woman whilst Anna #2 is a humble country girl who likes to paint pretty pictures. Anna #1 one day decides to purchase some photos from an art gallery display; spooky thing is she accidentally receives a photo ordered by Anna #2 who wanted the image because it just so happens to feature her husband (actor Lu Yi) …a guy who they both used to be romantically linked to because both girls were once the same person! Confused? You won’t be because of the slow pace of the whole thing, though that’s not to say it isn’t vague.
Anna meets Anna in an attempt to resolve the issue with the photo, oh and then there’s the whole clone thing to sort out. Turns out that a rare phenomenon split the two girls, it happened once briefly when they were kids, which explains why they both have weird dreams about seeing each other in a swimming pool and it happened again in adult life. Laughably one of the Annas learns about the mysterious “doppelganger” phenomenon from an article on the net and proceeds to tell the other Anna and both girls take this as gospel truth without question. Just to recap, it was in an article on the INTERNET; that place where a false word has never been uttered.
The crux of the movie is where Anna and Anna, bored with their respective lives decide to swap roles. The vague reason for this is in the hope that somehow they will achieve happiness and become one again. I can think of something else they could try …but this is not that kind of movie. This role-swapping would normally be the basis for one of those comedies that existed in the 80’s like Big, or I should say especially like Vice Versa. I mention a movie like Vice Versa (starring Fred Savage and Judge Reinhold) half jokingly, but actually the overarching message about being grateful for what you have or who you are, despite the huge genre divide is expressed no more effectively in this movie. Virtually no time is given for us to find out just how country girl Anna copes with hectic life in the office job; another long, silent close-up fills the gap instead. In fact more time is spent on a sub plot involving the husband character and his desire to cure depression and get back to playing piano whilst tutoring a small child. A welcome respite I thought from the Anna tedium.
Another thing, I’m not entirely sure which genre this movie belongs to, it has the potential near the beginning of the movie for creepiness but then ditches it for a rather stagnant relationship drama. Anna #1 now sleeps with the suffering rock ‘n’ roll boyfriend of Anna #2 who is pleased to find that she is now a nice person. At the same time Anna #1 tries to gets back with the husband of Anna #2 to patch things up. Again, it sounds like the recipe for a bedroom farce. No, things are deadly serious here, which would be fine were it not for such little time spent on motives. Despite some emotion-laden and consistent performances I didn’t feel as if there was enough weight behind any of it.
If you still somehow can’t get enough of Karena Lam then this is all well and good, but as the movie was ending I was still mentally compiling a list of “twins” movies.
[Ed. Note; Podcast on Fire has taken the plunge into providing movies reviews from various Festivals across the United Kingdom. Full credit to Lantern Jaw for attending Visible Secrets]