Wednesday, October 08, 2014
"Hector and the Search for Happiness" is indeed a feast for the eye, especially in Shanghai
“Hector and the Search for Happiness”, by Peter Chelsom, plays out the idea of intellect vs. organic life for a psychiatrist, who has intellectual ideas about what happiness should be, but really can’t communicate it to his well-to-do London patients because he hasn’t really experienced it himself. The premise sounds rather like it came from Paul Rosenfels, who developed a complete theory of psychological polarity and then really lived it (see Books, April 12, 2006). Somehow the concept of the movie reminds me of composer Hector Berlioz and his tone poem "Harold in Italy". (Don't mix up the first names; I did for a while.)
Hector (Simon Pegg) first visits Shanghai, and the film really opens up here, with stunning views (in anamorphic wide screen) of the modern sci-fi city on both sides of the river, some of them from his hotel room, where he has hired a prostitute believing some sort of relationship can happen. (He’s estranged from his wife, played by Rosamund Pike.) Along the way, we see some real Chinese food porn, worthy of Anthony Bourdain (TV blog, Sept. 29, 2014). But his misadventures lead to a confrontation with a biker in the poorer sections of Shanghai, again looking very realistic.
His next destination is a monastery in the Himalayas, filmed in India (and reminding one of a sequence near the end of the “Grand Budapest” movie). He’s shown taking a train, some of which could have included the high speed train from Beijing to Lhasa. Then he moves on to the back country of South Africa, where he goes on safari and samples the low standard of living in the back country after meeting a White gay doctor (Barry Atsma) who runs a mission clinic (the movie was made before the Ebola crisis and there’s a scene that gently recalls Rocky Braat’s “Blood Brother”, Feb. 16, 2014 here). But his street smarts are tested when he gets kidnapped by thugs and he talks them into releasing him. Finally, he flies to LA, and samples the Santa Monica and Venice beaches. And then back to London, his marriage, and his patients.
The official site is here from Relativity Media, with production resources from Canada (DGC), the UK and Germany, with the locations given above.
I saw the film at the Cinema Arts in Fairfax VA before a fair weeknight audience.
Wikipedia attribution link for Shanghai picture.