Michelle Yeoh, Martial Arts and the Universe: Inside the Crazy Movie of the Year | Movie theater

There’s a series that Michelle Yeoh delivers on Everywhere Everywhere All at Once that certainly resonates with everyone today: “Too busy today – no time to help you.”

Our internet is broken. Flooded with information (and misinformation), we are overwhelmed and emotionally exhausted. Alerts ring all the time, scrolling never ends. We seek solace not in others but in our devices – gateways to the content bubbles of our community.

“There’s something in modern life that’s like a multi-universe story,” says Daniel Scheinart, the half-duo known as Daniels. “Everyone is in their own little universes. We all connect on social media and discover these subcultures that are sometimes really beautiful and fascinating, sometimes nightmarish and loaded with conspiracies. It’s a very confusing experience. “

This confusion is the basis for Daniels’s Everything Everywhere All at Once, which already inspires a shortness of breath praise: Announced as the first major film of the year, it almost immediately became Letterboxd’s highest-grossing film only due to its limited release (not to mention ticket numbers and their exhausted theatrical activities rarely seen before Covid) .

Harry’s laundry owner Evelyn (Yeah, in a career-setting role) is at the bottom, with her relationship with her husband (Ke Huy Quan, on a brilliant comeback) and daughter (Stephanie Hsu) almost irreparably, when a The dreaded encounter with a ruthless IRS agent (Jamie Lee Curtis) reveals the existence of an endangered multiverse that only Evelyn can save. Such a synopsis favors a manic, crazy film full of pop culture references, enviable bodily humor and impressive kung fu choreography that also manages to be truly moving, inspiring an incredible optimism that confirms the supremacy of goodness in the face of blackness and humanity. of zeroing-bagel. All they say is, as many say, the title works.

After the 2016 Swiss Soldier, Scheinert and Daniel Kwan set their sights on making their own version of The Matrix. In both their characteristics, human bodies manage to transcend their realistic mortal forms, turning them into vessels for something far greater than what they can do in real life. This stems from the directors’ shared love for dance and natural comedy, which became a valuable vocabulary between the couple, which began as music video directors telling stories without dialogue.

Through Zoom, Kwan holds a copy of Kurt Vonnegut’s 1973 Breakfast of Champions novel, which explores the real-life case: “When we started directing, I really hated the job. “I felt like I was controlling these people, forcing them to recreate something in my head.” Like Swiss Army Man, in which a corpse is revealed to be a Swiss Army Knife for the protagonist, Daniels’s video for Foster the People’s Houdini embodies a similar stress, with the record label friends manipulating the corpses of the band members in front in a happy crowd. But Kwan notes that they are beginning to move away from this puppet guilt towards something more optimistic. “Instead of boats without autonomy to be controlled, what a beautiful gift to have all this opportunity, to be a boat to hold anything.”

Including hot dog fingers, with which Evelyn is terrified of finding herself in a universe. “We wanted to play a game of empathy with our audience and come up with a universe that Evelyn really would not want to be – one that is visually disgusting, where she is in love with her least loved one – and then see if we can “We make The Audience and our main character see the beauty in it,” Scheinert explains, before laughing that this is how they talked to Curtis and Yeoh in those scenes when the actors expressed skepticism.

Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan
Scheinert and Kwan, the directing duo known as Daniels. Photo: Jack Plunkett / Invision / AP

Much of the film is told through the eyes of first-generation immigrants who try to understand this country, navigate the bureaucracy, tax, try to socialize and trade with other Americans. Kwan originally did not intend to play as strongly as a Chinese-American immigrant family, but of course he followed, given the genre: among his favorite films were Jackie Chan, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and, of course, The Matrix, which featured Hong Choreography Kong front and center. Seeing a martial art through the line, they realized that they could put Asians as protagonists. “How exciting would that be?” Kwan remembers the thought. From there they began to write what he knew. His father’s family immigrated from Hong Kong and opened laundries in New York. remembers his grandparents’ apartment just above their laundry room.

Everything Everywhere draws heavily from the heyday of the Hong Kong movie that Daniel so much loves. After the first draft, Scheinert saw how much their writing had been influenced by the silly slapstick brand by Stephen Chow. “He was one of the first Asian filmmakers I fell in love with, who really combined the tones in a shocking way,” he says, recalling the impact of Shaolin Soccer in 2001. Tunes ».

Not to mention Jackie Chan and his trademark playful battle sequences that involve the use of everyday objects as weapons. “Who did not love Jackie Chan in the ’90s?” Kwan notes, with Scheinert emphasizing, “Everyone fell in love with him and after Hollywood he did not learn his lesson on how to make the action clear and accurate and fun and funny. “It’s so wild that his work made so much noise here and it was so satisfying and yet this style of action just disappeared.”

When Daniels began writing everything everywhere, a story centered on an Asian American family was far from a recipe for success in Hollywood. Yeoh first met them two weeks before the release of Crazy Rich Asians. no one was sure how they would receive it. Kwan recalls that Yeoh remarked then: “You take a lot of risks with this film. “It’s very brave to focus this big action movie around a Chinese family.”

Michelle Yeoh and Jing Li at Everything Everywhere All At Once
Michelle Yeoh and Jing Li. Photo: Allyson Riggs / AP

Five years ago, an Asian American in the industry who read his screenplay provided a colorful metaphor inspired by the evolution of Pokémon left in Kwan. “They said that the Bulbasaurs of Asian American film are like the Joy Luck Club or The Wedding Banquet – important stories that no one was telling at the time about a very specific cultural narrative. Because of these previous films, we can now watch things like Crazy Rich Asians and Shang-Chi, with Asian Americans starring in films of our kind – these are the Ivysaurs of Asian American cinema. “And our film is a Aphrodite.”

“Everything Everywhere could only exist because of these predecessors,” he says. “This film shows that Asian American cinema can be anything it wants to be.” And it happens to coincide with the recent releases of Kogonada’s After Yang and Domee Shi Turning Red. All three “basically echo the same feeling,” says Kwan, “which we will tell whatever story we want to tell.” Finally, Kwan has high hopes for the growing involvement of American cinema: “I’m very excited for the next five to 10 years. Let’s hope that every marginalized community has the opportunity to announce themselves and say, “Look, I know this is usually the story, but we have a lot more for ourselves.”

So far Everything Everywhere has received such a resounding response that one suspects it is playing something more than what appears on the screen. “The whole idea for the film came from seeing everything polarized and pushed in every single direction,” says Kwan. “Everyone feels this tension. And this film was an attempt to keep the worlds together and to imagine a place where everything belongs to reality and exists for a reason – where things are not this chaotic, scary chaos but rather a beautiful mass full of possibilities. “I think people need to hear it right now.”

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