Slickly shot drama of a photographer snapping a possible murder is the main plot of Zoom Hunting. Fortunately, the plot itself never gets too taken in detail, and even if it gets quite manipulative in places, the film is an elaborate puzzle revolving around half seen images of sex and murder. Zoom Hunting marks the directorial debut of Cho Li, and Cho’s script stops to explain what’s going on in awkwardly written scenes between the sisters. In addition to being a crime mystery, the film also lightly broaches the ethics of art, offering more twists and turns than most of the year’s bigger films.
Chang has a spirited presence and Zhou an aura of mystery, but not enough psychological depth has gone into their characterization. I wish more care and attention to detail were spent expanding the characters, as more time was spent extracting plenty of visual interest from a commonplace urban neighborhood. Ru Yi accidentally takes a photo of a couple making love while taking snapshots on the balcony. She informs Ru Xing about it and soon she makes her way to finish her writing. Soon Ru Yi discovers that the couple are adulterers and continue to stalk them with her camera. This plot sets up a mediocre mystery-drama, yet gets bonus points for being a genre long gone missing in Taiwanese cinema.
But the real climax comes after a good 50 minutes. All we get served then is a half further confused mesh weaving storylines. One night Ru Yi hears a loud argument from the couple’s room and witnesses a murder of the man. After she enlarges the photographs she realizes her sister had entered the couple’s room earlier. She begins to feel suspicious of her presence in the room. She confronts her and soon the truth shall be revealed. From there, we witness a tightly woven screenplay with carefully constructed revelations. So, admittedly, it takes a bit for the film to pick up some steam.
The film is certainly not bad, but insignificant. For non-Chinese viewers, the English subtitles, are pretty awful and it made for a struggle to keep up with the narrative. The gist though, through its two protagonists, involves a photographer and a novelist who become inordinately curious about an illicit affair in their Taipei neighborhood. Zoom Hunting is ultimately about exploring voyeurism. If that topic scares you then this film will be an immediately turn off. Lastly, instead of Hitchcock, it is more like its imitators; Brian De Palma, though without the sophistication or the sense of escalating tension. Zoom Hunting is standard fare that doesn’t really find it’s footing and I couldn’t escape the feeling that I was watching something bland and insignificant.