Written by Patrick Hao
Filmmakers love to make movies about how hard it is to make a movie. From The Disaster Artist to Living in Oblivion, these movies about movies are often a love letter to the medium that they love despite the hardships that they face. Money Has Four Legs goes beyond just a simple love letter to a medium, by being a potent critique of the Burmese film industry.
Maung Sun directs the film about Wai Bhone, son of a famous film director, looking to shoot a remake of a classic film. The opening scene opens with his interaction with the censorship board demanding numerous changes to his script breaking his artistic vision. Not only that, but his cast members are also irresponsible and late, and the ever-present threat of poverty makes Wai ask if this is all worth it. Everyone is seemingly against him.
The satire of the film is clear-eyed throughout about the Burmese film industry. What bubbles underneath the light comedy of the film hijinks is the presence of the socio-political troubles within Myanmar. Muang Sun does not only point his satirical lens at censorship boards but at the way the state treats the impoverished and the corruption of local banks. It is almost surprising that this film was able to get past the censorship board itself.
Maung Sun proves himself to be a very capable filmmaker with an ability to balance tonal shifts and clever referential flourishes. He knows when he is dealing with serious issues and when to be silly. If there are any drawbacks to the film, it very much feels like a first film(which it is) in which so many ideas are packed in that some do not get the attention it deserves. In particular, Wai’s nagging wife feels especially retrograde.
This film has also become an artifact as the Myanmar that Money Has Four Legs depicts is one in which the country had gone through a liberalization. However, just this February, a successful military coup had taken over the country’s government. In fact, Ma Aeint, a co-writer and producer of the film was arrested in early June by the military junta and is being held as a political prisoner. Money Has Four Legs gives a glimpse at a political climate that would not be shown through news telecasts or Vice documentaries. And for Maung Sun to do so in a biting entertaining way showcases why art and movies can be so important and powerful.
Money Has Four Legs Trailer