“What’s going on today? Everything is fucked up.”
Have a Nice Day is the second animated feature from Chinese director Jian Liu, following 2010’s Piercing I. The style of animation is captivating, expressive, and occasionally surreal: somewhere between Monkey Dust (2003) and Waking Life (2001).
Jian Liu injects his second feature with more humour than the first. He has a penchant for the heist-gone-wrong narrative, not a million miles from Welcome to Collinwood (2002). Although there is an abundance of violence, it is much more comedy than thriller.
At a running time of 103 minutes (Piercing I) and 75 minutes (Have a Nice Day), Jian Liu’s animations prove his determination as a filmmaker. Largely a solo effort, they possess the magnetism of a young band perfecting their skills on the gig circuit, whilst maintaining the intoxicating raw energy of a creation still rough around the edges. A necessary counterpoint to big budget animations from powerhouse studios. Piercing I took 3 years to complete, whereas Have a Nice Day took closer to 5. The difference is unmistakable yet Jian Liu preserves his signature style.
Have a Nice Day has been compared to Pulp Fiction (1994), but Tarantino has never devoted so much screen time to examining the shabby and decaying urban landscape. Jian Liu seems to take as much of an interest in small-scale architecture as illustrators Chris Ware or Adrian Tomine. These scenes – almost stills but for a whisper of cigarette smoke or a buzzing neon sign – offer a great deal more subtlety and detail than is found in the rendering of the characters. One exquisite scene, a series of cuts showing buildings and alleyways in the rain, adopts clever use of sound – with the rainfall becoming richer or tinnier to match each setting.
The era of the story is important to the director, choosing to set each film in a very specific time-frame, highlighting it as pivotal to the plot. Each film is placed in time using global political markers, namely the 2008 global financial crisis and the election of Obama, in Piercing I, and the election of Trump referenced in Have a Nice Day.
Looking at the films in tandem, it is interesting to see the artistic development as well as Liu’s confidence in his narrative becoming more robust.
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