The dancers are dunces in "Showtime."

The dancers are dunces in “Showtime,” Stanley Kwan’s borderline incoherent tale of time-traveling hoofers that’s (probably?) supposed to say something about the contrast between the shifting and the always-constant aspects of Shanghai (a fetish location of the Hong Kong helmer). Despite the involvement of high-profile crew, including Wong Kar Wai’s d.p. Christopher Doyle and editor William Chang Suk Ping, pic reps something of a career worst for almost all involved. Beyond Kwan completists, this won’t two-step anywhere.

Screenplay by Kwan regular Jimmy Ngai (“Lan Yu”) seems to have been dictated by an oracle high on party drugs and bad talent shows. In the present, a teacher (Huang Lei) at the Shanghai Theater Academy preps his nameless students for their graduation project. They are miraculously paired with dancers from 1936, who can only return if they perform in harmony with their new recruits. But old and modern dance sequences are more like intermittent stylistic flourishes than fully choreographed setpieces. Story is often incomprehensible; scenes seem randomly stitched together. Visuals are bland, acting flat and countless cameos, including Doyle’s, pointless. Finale, in translucent pink gowns, has to be seen to be believed.

Showtime

China-Hong Kong

Production

A Golden Scene (in Hong Kong) release of a Shanghai Starlight Culture Media Co., Shanghai Film Group, 3 Will Kingdom, Huaxia Film Distribution Co. presentation and production. (International sales: Golden Scene, Hong Kong.) Produced by Yin Jianhua, Wang Tianyun, Steven Lo, Zhou Li. Executive producers, Ren Zhonglun, Dai Xiaojun, Willie Chan, Gu Guoqing. Directed by Stanley Kwan. Screenplay, Jimmy Ngai.

Crew

Camera (color), Christopher Doyle; editor, William Chang Suk Ping; music, Yu Yat-yiu, Ho Shan; production designers, Lan Bin, Wong Ka Lun; costume designer, Lui Fung Shan. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (noncompeting), Sept. 1, 2010. Running time: 96 MIN. (Mandarin, Shanghainese dialogue)

With

Huang Lei, Jia Song, Fan Liao, Carina Lau, Bingbing Li, Jun Hu, Tony Leung Ka-fai, Christopher Doyle, Huang Lei.

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