Life Is Cheap… But Toilet Paper Is Expensive (1989)

43% – Audience

Life Is Cheap… But Toilet Paper Is Expensive Storyline

A man is hired by a group of people he believes to be gangsters to escort a briefcase from America to Hong Kong. When he arrives, however, his contact is nowhere to be found. With no further instructions, he decides to take in the sights of Hong Kong, which consist of him taking part in a great deal of blood, sex and general weirdness, all while wearing a briefcase handcuffed to his arm.—Jean-Marc Rocher

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Life Is Cheap… But Toilet Paper Is Expensive Movie Reviews

a failed experiment

Director Wayne Wang’s return to modern Hong Kong (the Final Frontier at the edge of China) is a scattershot quest for cultural identity in the Wild Wild East, spiced with casual displays of scatology and copraphogy (illustrating the lengths to which traditional Chinese will go to maintain face). The ersatz plot line, in which a frustrated currier fails to deliver a briefcase to a mysterious crime lord, is little more than incohesive filler interrupting a series of mock-documentary encounters with various local characters, in episodes that might have been more effective if they were genuine. Scripted cinema verité is an oxymoron, and even with directorial assistance (from writer/star Nakasaka) Wang is too polite a filmmaker for this type of narrative deconstruction. Highlights include some striking photography and editing, and an exhilarating (if pointless) chase that finally captures that elusive spark of vitality missing from the rest of the film.

Pure Weirdness

This was one bizarre flick. And yes, that foot chase was so long I was winded watching it. But anyone into “arty” films should definitely check it out. Some of the scenes remind one of the Mondo films from the ’60’s. This came out in America in that wave of NC-17 films. Wayne Wang is a director who clearly should be better known. The narrative of this film can be a little confusing. Also there are some graphic scenes involving bodily functions. Anyone who has been to Hong Kong might be able to relate slightly. I also enjoyed seeing the late Victor Wong in his brief scenes as a semi-tour guide. Try to catch it in a theater if possible. I own the video but I was able to see it at an art theater in Tokyo as well.