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Chan Is Missing Criterion Blu-ray Review

“Chan Is Missing” is influential, but frustrating.

Directed by Wayne Wang and written by Isaac Cronin, Wayne Wang and Terrel Seltzer, “Chan Is Missing” is an indie mystery-comedy set in Chinatown, San Francisco about 2 men (Jo and his nephew Steve) who are attempting to get a taxi cab license. Jo’s friend Chan was set to broker the deal (and even got their money), but he suddenly goes missing with their money. Jo and Steve set out to find Chan’s whereabouts by asking family members and known associates, but nobody seems to know where he is or who he really was. The mystery only deepens the more they learn about him. Can Chan be found? Will Jo and Steve be able to get their money back?

It’s well established that the 90’s were the big indie film boom, but just a few years prior, “Chan Is Missing” changed the game in 1982. Not only did it have a B&W style reminiscent of 1994’s “Clerks,” but it did what few films had by exploring Chinese American culture. Wang and his writing team crafted a unique story that is part comedy, part mystery, part noir (complete with voice over narration by Jo), and part subverted Charlie Chan story. Through these genres, the story intelligently explores the concepts of identity, being an outsider, culture, family, and politics. 

As absorbing as those elements are, “Chan Is Missing” doesn’t quite gel like it could. Although Wang has much to say, the central story is a meandering one as Jo and Steve struggle to find leads about Chan’s disappearance. It feels like the movie is in need of a substantial twist or plot development. Moreover, for those viewers who need closure, let’s just say you might not get that here.

Given that this is an indie, the film does have a shoestring budget and some rather amateurish acting. Of course, that can be forgiven since this is a sort of DIY indie film (and an ahead of its time one at that), but its shortcomings do stick out here and there.   

Video/Audio:

Presentation: 1.33:1 1080p. How does it look? The high-definition digital transfer is a definite upgrade. While there are some print defects, this is easily the best the film has looked.

Audio Track: Uncompressed Mono with English subtitles. How does it sound? The audio isn’t likely to wow anyone but it’s an adequate track.

Extras:
* A booklet with credits and an essay by Oliver Wang.
* “Chan I Missing” trailer.
* A newly recorded conversation between film critic/film programmer Dennis Lim and Wayne Wang about his filmography among other subjects.
* A newly recorded conversation between filmmakers Ang Lee and Wayne Wang that covers everything from “Chan Is Missing” to filmmaking. A very honest and intimate conversation.
* A third newly recorded conversation with Wayne Wang. This time film critic Hua Hsu joins him for a chat about his life and “Chan Is Missing” (naturally).
* “Is Chan Still Missing?”- A 28 minute 2005 making of documentary that features cast and crew interviews.

May 18, 2022 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , ,

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