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Ryu san


The camera moves past the illuminated pastel rainbow windows of a posh department store in the Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung, then everything turns red. A pan from the temple ceiling with red lanterns leads to an altar where the colors of the department store appear again in a sea of flowers. The film will deal with consumerism, blood, and the cult of the dead.

Then the camera turns right and a shabby back room of the temple appears with four gangsters waiting for the fifth whom they despise. The appearance of our hero Mr. long occurs behind their backs. A red blood stain on white clothing, the man falls forward, behind him stands a big, slim, very handsome man (Chen Chang) dressed in elegant black, somewhere between Kenzo and kung fu. Long is a silent killer and despite having a pistol aimed at him, no one will be left standing. He goes to a restaurant afterwards, walks passed unwieldy, sweaty gangster types that look like the bunch that he just massacred, and gives a report while he and his boss Dim Sum cook. Long’s next job is in Japan.

Everything goes wrong there, which leads to a severely wounded Long fleeing in a truck. One of his enemies looks at the truck bed where Long is hiding, sees the blood on the floor, looks up, curses, and turns his back. The truck drives, the gangsters look behind them. Long is in his black clothes in front of the white walls, there’s only a bit of green from a branch in the background. It’s a typical bifurcation and there are two interpretations of the film. Did Long escape once again, was this a typical time ellipsis? Of course not. Long is dead. What follows is his path into realm of the dead.

Long awakens in a slum, a deserted quonset housing development that is otherwise filled with junkies. A young boy appears from nowhere and delivers ingredients for soup. Long finds a pot, water, and salt and gives the boy food. Shortly thereafter, some helpful ghosts appear that are reminiscent of Kafka’s helper figures. These are figures who teach him the ways of the underworld and show him what he has lost. They hand Long a new existence, the dream of a successful soup kitchen in front of a Buddhist temple. They always stand next to Long and joyfully watch him as he cooks. Every detail is a residue of Long’s real life that has been over for a long time. Sabu creates the fantasy of a failed man, a dead man who fantasizes about an alternative existence on his way to eternal peace in which he is a quiet, empathetic man who could be a father to the small boy.

You could also view the film in a more typical way, which is always the case with a bifurcation. Long survives, meets nice people, and becomes a better person until his past catches up with him. Sabu keeps this perspective halfway open, but some things remain unclear and seem to be constructed in a foolish way. Seeing the end of the film as something other than the deepest wish of a dead man is difficult for me. A great film.


Translation: Elinor Lewy


Original title: Ryu san
Japan/China/Taiwan/Deutschland 2017, 128 min
Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
Director: Sabu
Author: Sabu
Distributor: REM - Rapid Eye Movies
Cast: Chen Chang
FSK: 16
Release: 14.09.2017




  • OV Original version
  • OmU Original with German subtitles
  • OmeU Original with English subtitles
English/with English subtitles
All languages

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