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Film Review: The Accomplice

Burgeoning 17-year-old filmmaker, Shawn Quek, breaks the fourth wall in The Accomplice, a French-New-Wave-styled experimental short film. Largely in black and white, this film follows actresses Adriana Hyun and Elisabeth Genillard as they break into a school, steal a camera from a film class. In doing so, they speak to the camera as if speaking to the audience watching them.

Quek’s and Nandini Krishnan's (co-DoP) imagery immerses you with beautiful exposures, geometric compositions and contrasts. The playful, string-focused original soundtrack by Jon Francis and Sid Sridhar and moody voiceover captures the New Wave feel. The performances surprise as two different stories are told on how two girls stole uniforms allowing them to sneak through a school as partners in crime.

As an audience member, you may start to wonder just what is truth and what is fiction. What is performance and what is reality? The question pairs well with the repeated motif of breaking the fourth wall. Quek captures Hyun and Genillard’s nuanced performances that walk the fine line between style and naturalism. Both actresses employ a cool subtlety that feels effortless and purposeful at the same time. There is a kind of wish fulfillment in these girls acting so calm, even a bit sassy.

That cool calm drops when the main character’s partner in crime leaves. The director employs a clever transition from black and white to color at this moment. The transition seems to signal the loss and bring us back to the “real” world for a bit. After this moment, the film soon asks through voiceover “what could you have done differently?” This could be applied literally -- what could the main character have done to make her accomplice stay?

In the abstract, it could also apply to the exploration of performance in the film, the larger grief contained in making art and worrying what could the artist have done differently. The beauty of the film is that there is room for interpretation, room for an audience to ruminate on deeper meanings.

The film employs several jump cuts reminiscent of Godard’s “Breathless.” The cutty style used by Quek and his co-editor Enzo Tolentino harnesses the sense of youthful energy. The entire film captures a mood that is mysterious, exciting, and interesting. The audience will not receive just a story so much as an experience, a feeling. They will get to dazzle at the imagery, the music, the art of it all, and that is the beauty of experimental film.

In May 2021, Shawn Quek won Best Young Filmmaker at LAFA, for his work on The Accomplice.

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