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city of lost things

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[NYAFF ’21] ‘City of Lost Things’ review: Taiwanese animated film never finds self

Sounds like a Pixar movie.

City of Lost Things would seem to feel right at home in Pixar’s celebrated library. The 3D animated release is about a boy named Leaf who has decided he has had enough of life and runs away from home. He ends up in the eponymous city, which is populated by the junk people have left behind. He meets a 30 year old plastic bag named Baggy who is adamant he is not just another piece of trash. In fact, he wants to lead his tribe to a new home.

It is hard not to read the synopsis and immediately think of Disney. (There are some clear parallels to WALL-E, for example.) City of Lost Things is more than just a clone of a Mouse House release, however. For starters, it is not a good movie to take the family out to see. The story can get very dark and while there is nothing too outrageous, it may not appeal to younger children. Parents and older kids may also find the basic plot to be uninteresting.

Another difference is the quality of art.

Another big difference between the City of Lost Things and major animation studios is the quality of the art. Pixar is constantly pushing the limits of what animation can do. Each new release seems to be called the “best looking animated film ever”. The same cannot be said for the Taiwanese import. It may be due to budget, but the movie looks like something from decades past. Even if this were a stylistic choice, it would not fit the story being told.

The movie must rely on its main characters in order to win audiences over. Though the plot is pedestrian, the characters do enough to stand out. This is most impressive with Baggy. Since he has no face or limbs, it is harder to become attached to the character. His relationship with Leaf is a familiar one that will eventually win some over. City of Lost Things will have the same effect; while not groundbreaking, there is entertainment to be found.

The New York Asian Film Festival takes place from August 6 – August 22. Screenings are live and online.

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