Dir.: Maung Sun; Cast: Okkar, Khin Khin Hsu, Hein Thiori San, Kio Thu; Myanmar 2021, 98 min.
Mynamar’s Maung Sun opts for a light comedy style to get this debut feature past the censors. Set in the capital Naypyidaw Money Has Four Legs is a semi-autobiographical portrait of a contemporary filmmaker and his trials and tribulations trying to get a movie in a country seemingly down on its knees.
We first meet Sun’s alter ego, Wai Bhone, arguing over his script in the censor’s office. All this unwelcome interference radically alters the finished product, proposing a scenario where the police force is the guiding force and sex scenes are symbolic rather than graphic. And Bhone could do without it. Back home in his living room, decorated with his awards and photos of his father, a famous director, Bhone contemplates an uncertain future, his wife Seazir (Khin Khin Su) is about to lose her job ay the bank, and there’s their daughter Meemi (Thiori San) to think about too. Seazir’s brother Zaw Mynth (Ko Thu), a film extra, is prone to violent episodes when drunk – which is nearly always. The film’s producer is at the end of his tether, considering replacing Bhone with another helmer. Luckily, he manages to keep the show on the road after digging up some some dirt on his producer, and when Seazir’s bank goes into liquidation, as anticipated, Bhone and his brother turn the situation to their advantage in a denouement that feels like a tribute to Jules Dassin.
DoP Thaiddhi conjures up fairytale images that certainly sum up the chaotic upbeat style Sun had in mind: the colours are bright, the scenes in the hustling streets are well-observed. But behind all the bungling – in real life and film-making – this is a cry for help: if the banks are going under, what hope is there for an out-of-work population? Sun’s debut is a subversive attack, a welcome celebration of 100 Years of Burmese cinema. AS
SCREENING DURING BFI LONDON FILM FESTIVAL 6-17 OCTOBER 2021