Director: Rui Cui and Xiang Liu
Screenplay: Sicheng Chen and Gu Shuyi
Starring: Yilong Zhu, Ni Ni, Janice Man, Jiang Du, Kay Huang, Mengqi Chen, Scotty Bob Cox, Shadow Dima, Jose Maria Hinojosa Serrato
Country: China
Running time: 122 min
Year: 2023

Peerless director Alfred Hitchcock is, amongst many other achievements, famed for his films which featured an innocent man on the run. From The 39 Steps to North by Northwest via a film literally called The Wrong Man, these are all exciting thrillers in which we try to keep up with – and in some cases are a step ahead of – our hero as he tries to prove his innocence or prove something wrong.

These and many other Hitchcock films have inspired generations of other filmmakers and brought us similar thrillers and mysteries over the decades. One of the most recent films which clearly feels inspired by Hitchcock, is 2023’s Chinese production Lost in the Stars. Whilst there’s only some elements that are linked to wrong man on the run films, there are numerous inspirations and homages to that genre of film, as well as to films which focus on a character trying to prove something wrong.

The film opens with a shot of a spider in a web – just one of a several motifs of dangerous creatures  (snakes, scorpions) which resonate with the story – before we meet He Fei who is reporting his wife Li Muzi missing to the police. She’s been gone for 15 days. We learn that He Fei and Li Muzi were on a Southeast Asian island celebrating their wedding anniversary when the disappearance occurred. The local police refuse to investigate as there’s no evidence of a crime.

The next day He Fei wakes up to find a woman claiming to be his wife lying next to him in bed in their hotel suite, but he has no knowledge of her. He brings the police in, but everything suggests she is his wife – passport photo, photos of the couple, surveillance footage, the claims of hotel staff.

He Fei claims the photos and footage have all been doctored, whilst the woman who claims to be Li Muzi says he has a neurological condition brought on by years of deep-sea diving which is affecting his mental state. He Fei hires successful lawyer Chen Mai to investigate and prove that the woman is not his wife.

This all happens in the first act, and it’s best to go in not knowing anything more about the plot as it unfolds with twists, turns and surprises. There’s a strong Hitchcock feel to the film, including He Fei and Chen Mai going on the run, and attempting to prove him right and uncover what happened to his wife; linked back to those innocent man on the run films. There are also other homages to the films of Hitchcock including a shot early on that feels like it has come straight from his masterpiece Vertigo.

Lost in the Stars is an adaptation of a 1990 Russian film A Trap for a Lonely Man, and the 1960 play of the same name. It reminded me a lot of David Fincher’s 1997 mystery The Game starring Michael Douglas, particularly as the stakes get higher and the rug is frequently pulled from under you, making you question what you’ve seen and also genuinely surprising you with where the plot will go. It feels like a lot is thrown at He Fei and with each scene something else is added to his plate and there’s something else to deal with. But all is not as it seems.

Th OTT, labyrinthine plot is both a strength and a weakness as the film is not without its flaws, and the plot does at times feel contrived and some elements just don’t really feel realistic or gel. It is also, at times, a little bit too stylish for my tastes, with too many slow motion shots and elements that a feel a bit artificial. There’s also a post credits scene that, whilst undeniably beautifully shot, feels out of place and would have been better placed being left out or included as a deleted scene.

That scene, like much of the film, does look beautiful though, from the simply gorgeous scenery of the island to the vibrant colour scheme and wonderful production design of the hotel suite, which is featured in a number of scenes, and the visuals are all enhanced by some swooping camera work that adds gravitas to the piece. Li Muzi is a huge fan of artist Vincent van Gogh and that plays out in the plot, with immersive van Gogh experiences used to beautiful effect, and numerous shots that homage his paintings, all which add to the beauty of the film, whilst also playing a key role in the plot.

 

So, despite some reservations about the contrivances of some of the plot developments and the overly stylish aspects, I was constantly entertained by Lost in the Stars – there’s plenty to enjoy in a gripping mystery full of twists and turns.

Film

Lost in the Stars is out now on Region B Blu-Ray in Australia, released by Via Vision as number one in its new Imprint Asia line. It is limited to 1,500 copies.

The picture looks wonderful, as it should for such a recent film, the colourful cinematography popping and showcasing the beauty of the movie. The audio is also great, and my only reservations are with the English subtitles. They’re fine for the most part, but whilst some text elements such as mobile phone texts are translated, many others aren’t and as the text is on screen for a decent amount of time, I felt as though I was missing out on important elements. On the flipside it does add an additional element to the mystery-solving for the non-Mandarin speaking viewer, but it’s a shame that the subtitles are so inconsistent.

On the special features front, the disc is also lacking; all that’s included is a 90 second trailer.

In closing, Lost in the Stars is a very entertaining mystery full of surprises and shocks as the plot unfolds, and with some wonderful performances and striking cinematography, despite some flaws. The film and its overall presentation in this Via Vision Imprint Asia release come warmly recommended, particularly for fans of the movie, but the disc is sorely let down by a lack of special features and some inconsistent subtitles.

Disc/Package

Lost in the Stars – Via Vision
Film
Disc/Package
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About The Author

Passionate about film, from the silents to the present day and everything in between, particularly 80s blockbusters, cult movies and Asian cinema.

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