Compared with Sparrow (2008) or Life Without Principle (2011), which play at the Gene Siskel Film Center in a few weeks, Election is one of To's more subdued films. Much of the action takes place under heavy shadow, and the director minimizes his use of balletic camera movement, for which he's justly revered. The emphasis is on gangland ritual as opposed to action (though the second half has a fair amount of the latter too), so that one comes to understand the rivalry between Lok and D in societal rather than interpersonal terms. Near the end of the movie, To stages a sequence roughly 1,000 years in the past to show where and why certain triad traditions originated. It's an audacious moment, as it stops the narrative momentum just when it's cresting to ensure the viewer recognizes the historical legacy that's threatened by infighting.
How often does this sort of thing happen during a U.S. presidential election? So much campaign rhetoric focuses on the future of the country rather than its past. I wonder if Americans might think about voting differently if they were forced to read about, say, the Revolutionary War or the Constitutional Convention of 1787 at least once during the campaign season. Or if it were mandatory that everyone read Whitman's "Election Day, November 1884" before casting his or her ballot. Familiarity with shared history doesn't stop To's gangsters from going to war, but it provides them with a deeper sense of purpose than maintaining or disputing the current leadership.
"Screw this election—let's talk about past elections all week," by Tal Rosenberg
"And in this corner, the Rainbow Coalition!" by Kate Schmidt
"Remembrances of election past—the throbbing heart of freedom," by Michael Miner