dir. Jian Liu, China 2017.
Liu Jian’s HAO JI LE (HAVE A NICE DAY) is an agile piece of animation that lands on a succinct visual grammar to reach deep into the loftiest dreams of its eclectic cast of characters.
Its look is minimalistic without being crude, as evinced immediately when opening with spare compositions introducing us to the clean linework of its character design. Using as few movements and color variations as possible, the visuals succeed in distinguishing its characters from the diegetic photos, posters, paintings, and scarecrows to explore just what it means to be alive.
The plot kicks right into action, we fade to black, and the beats of the #ShanghaiRestorationProject introduce us to the city proper. Busier backgrounds unfurl in montage, opening up our depth of perspective. Scott McCloud’s masking effect, in which locales and objects are rendered with more detail than characters for maximum relatability within the immersiveness of an unfamiliar world, is in full deployment.
Set in a modest metropolis in the south of China, the caper gives us a glimpse into multiple social strata in close quarters. A bag of money up for grabs provides the engine through which a variety of figures vying for that capital express their loftiest goals for the future, from inventors to restauranteurs to parents merely seemly the best option for their offspring.
Capitalism drives most of those visions, outside of a madcap karaoke video with propagandistic backdrops elevating the one-child family built upon the values of “hard work.” Good-heartedness runs up against more selfish instincts, yet no one in the film is fully in the wrong. Power comes and goes, but the people carry on.