By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ***** out of *****.
“Transience” (2013), the seven minute debut short from writer-director Tan See Yun, is a testament to the power of images projected silently on-screen. Without the use of sound or dialogue, until a haunting piano melody creeps emotively over the soundtrack at five and a half minutes in, Yun relies on simple motions, facial expressions and repeated pictures to tell his tale. For instance, there is a sight early on where Tom (in an enactment by Joshua Michael Payne that is credible and accomplished) is shown putting his wedding ring back on his finger. Our minds are left to ponder the visage: is he not being faithful in the relationship? If so, why? What is causing this fracture between him and George (Timothy J. Cox in a wrenching, human and heartfelt bravura performance)? With no speech to push us along and provide an answer, we search through what Yun allows us to spy to find out why. Such only heightens the emotional resonance of all we encounter, enhanced by the brute professionalism radiating through every frame in its brief span, immensely.
Likewise, there is a continued spectacle of a batch of flowers sitting in the middle of a kitchen table. This comes off as a symbol of George’s attempts to bring peace and re-ignited intimacy to the duo. There is also a moment that stands as a cornerstone of the endeavor. It arrives at three and a half minutes in. Such a happenstance oversees Tom coming across George by accident in a public place. This is an example of Yun’s tremendous capability to give a sequence a dream-like, poetic quality while maintaining a thoroughly authentic grasp. Such occurs as the bridges, lake and trees in this park area loom entrancingly, like gothic figures, in the background. Such is utilized to beautiful, chill-inducing effect. We also get a glimpse of George in this instant, as he sits in slumber with his hands on his stomach, clearly through Tom’s visage. It is than that we understand both of the points of view which culminate the project. We also comprehend the ability Yun has over his audiences all the more in gut-wrenches cases such as these. The result is further proof that what the psyche can conjure, especially in this manner, is far more substantial to the individual than any such reply pre-woven into the fabric of the narrative.
Yun tells the tale of Tom and George. Tom appears to be unfaithful. He may be leading a life that George may be unaware exists. George is the most commitment inclined of the pair. He has a professional life that is thriving. All the while, George seems to want to cling onto the mannerisms of the young bachelor. This is where much of the turmoil derives in their multi-year marriage. We see George making many attempts to patch up this distance. This is via a hug or a kind glance. Still, Tom is distant. Such triumphs as a unique representation of the early and advanced phases in the cycle of the existence. What is all the more impressive is that Yun has put them in frame together. This act makes their polar opposite natures unmistakable. It also exemplifies wonderfully how different personalities create unique angles, which may become problems, in a romantic rapport.
This is a fascinating concept. It is one which is stirringly erected throughout. With this, Yun gives us just enough to take in through his visual modus. Such is without weighing down the flow of the natural storytelling. Correspondingly, his writing and directing are similarly brilliant. They parallel moviemaking maestros such as Ingmar Bergman. This is in the way that the production often can be viewed as an extension of the stage as cinema. It also draws a sharp parallel to Federico Fellini. This is in Yun’s masterful aesthetic emphasis and command. All of these elements are sure to please fellow cinephiles. Yet, Yun showcases as much authority in his balanced, fluent pacing as in the aforementioned components. He has taken as many strides to make the piece a mirror to life itself, in its flawed and often harsh light, as he has a display of sheer talent.
Also assisting matters is Mark Boyle’s breathless, illuminating and gorgeous black and white cinematography. Yun’s editing is exceptional. Ekin Asar compliments both the ordinary and extraordinary components of what we spy in the composition with splendidly done set decoration. The location design and assistant camera contribution Asar provides is incredible. Fairful Nizam’s lighting is immersive and spectacular. It makes every shot all the more potent, dramatic and delightful to the eye. The uncredited, lately used score fares just as astonishingly. These technical attributes all add on-going awe to an already hypnotic, cerebral and poignant endeavor.
“Transience” begins, endures and ends remarkably. Furthermore, the New York City, New York recorded exertion is artistic, daring and refreshing. Yun’s undertaking harkens wonderfully back to the eloquence of the days of abstract, silent photoplays. This is while maintaining a consistently modern approach. In turn, Yun has presented an illustrious melding of the classic and contemporary. It is one which is simultaneously refreshing and necessary. This is a love letter to the big screen, derived by stripping cinema down to its bare essentials. Yet, the SIGH production is also a nuanced, striking and multi-dimensional character-study. It never forgets that focus. Moreover, it is an affair where even the meekest of optical bits, such as a flash where a game of Chess is quietly glimpsed in frame, seems to personify the twosome’s constant struggle for dominance in their nuptial link. A fiction which makes its spectators look that closely at all the details in the proximity of the account is evidently operating on a whole new level of prodigiousness.
Yun has consummated this and more with this intensely evocative tour de force. This is that increasingly rare undertaking that satisfies on all levels. It will captivate and demand multiple viewings to fully appreciate and recognize all that lies beyond its surface. In this era, that is equally infrequent. We desperately need more moving pictures such as these. Yun has erected an envy-inducing exhibition of skill. This is film at its finest.