Winterthur review: All the Crows in the World (2021)

Film still from the Palme D’Or winner in the short film cathegory ©Tang Dan

In some homes, kids get spared of having to perform in front of their relatives or their parents’ friends by playing an instrument, singing, dancing or reciting poetry, and in others – there is no way out of it. It’s a bit like a circus show with the main act not really being that much into it.

The 18-year-old Shengnan (Chen Xuanyu) finds herself unexpectedly in what you could ironically call a similar kind of situation, except that her audience is interested in other kind of performance. And although she wasn’t counting with such an event at a seemingly ordinary restaurant having being invited to the place by her cousin, she is not the type who doesn’t know how to wriggle herself out of strange situations.

In Yi Tang’s comedy drama All the Crows in The World a teenage girl gets confronted with the adult, sexually charged atmosphere more than once. The owner of a small street diner where she regularly eats at with her best friend has an affair with the neighbour right in their face, her cousin (Shujun Huang) seems to be in the oldest business in the world, and there are pervy old men who are very much into teens when the situation allows it.

It’s a mildly put bizarre gathering at the restaurant we are witnessing together with Shengnan, but she is not the only odd one out. As the group of men gathered around a powerful alpha male Mr. Liu (Wu Ge) in the adult establishment clad as an eatery starts behaving like unleashed dogs, a middle-aged, bolding guy Juanguo Wang (Baohe Xue) finds his unlikely soulmate in Shengnan, as forlorn in the atmosphere of horniness as her. They do have different reasons for wanting to get out of it, but their bond is instant.

In the Palme D’Or winner for Best Short Film, the two new unlikely friends dance to the tunes of John Grant’s song Disappointing which is not the only music delight that delivers a comment on the story. There is a famous Chinese song Liu Yang written in the 1950s to praise the birthplace of the Chairman Mao Zedong which Shengnan ends up performing with her cousin to the lot before realizing where she is. The sheer paradox of celebrating the Communist leader while throwing money on booze, lavish food and under-aged prostitutes while toasting to business prosperity is a proper punch above the waistline. The presence of a buddhist shaman at the said dinner is also hilarious, but less so as the lines he delivers: “The way of Heaven reduces surplus to make up for scarcity. The way of Man reduces surplus to make up for scarcity.” The Chairman Mao certainly wouldn’t approve.

Wanqiu Zeng makes the setting of the film unforgettable with his vision of a perfect kitschy love nest, white furniture with dramatic carvings incuded. It is both inviting and tacky, but it also gives the two new friends a fantastic podium to dance on.

Smart, bold and inventive in its blend of different thropes, All Crows in The World delivers on all fronts. It enters the area of LGTBQ+ with an ease of a cat sneaking into your pantry, playing with clichés.

Ubiquarian watched the film at Kurzfilmtage Winterthur, where it screened in the interantional competition.

Original title: 天下烏鴉
Country: Hong Kong
Language: Mandarin
Runtime: 14′
drama, dark comedy
Directed by: Tang Yi
Assistant Director: Zhou Yilei
Camera Operator: Li Shiyu
Producer: Li Haozheng
Production Assistant: Li Yuxuan
Line Producers: Du Yuanhao, Wang Jie
Camera Assistants: Liang Zhiyue, Fang Jundong
Digital Imaging: Lao Xinying
Gaffer: Qiu Tao
G&E: Zhu Ganming, Deng Ning
Production Design: Zeng Wanqiu
Executive Art: Li Qian
Art Assistant: Zhang Mengling
Makeup & Costumes: Dou Kunmei
Makeup Assistant: Luo Chaoxin
Dance Coach: Liu Guang
Sound Mix/ Sound Design: Liu Qi
Boom Operator: Li Cong
Music: Guyshawn Wong, Lemon Guo, John Grant
Editor: J.Him Lee
Colourist: Li Shiyu