Monday, December 01, 2008

Piao lang qing chun (Drifting Flowers)

This Zero Chou film looks and feels like the work of a more mature director if you compare it to her previous film Spider Lilies and has a story told out of sequence in three segments that move freely in time and are interconnected by one character, Diego, a girl that looks like a boy.

The first segment is called May and is about a blind beautiful girl, Jing that works as a lounge singer. She lives with her 8-year-old sister May that helps her to move around, becoming her eyes. Their domestic bliss is interrupted when a new female accordionist, Diego, arrives to accompany Jing singing and in the most unexpected way the story becomes a love/jealousy triangle.

The second segment starts the day that lesbian Lily and gay Yen get married and is fast forwarded in time to older Yen being HIV positive that leaves his unfaithful partner to live with Alzheimer sick Lily. When Yen arrives Lily believes that is Ocean her deceased butch lover. What follows is a story seldom seen about human love and companionship.

The third segment tells about Diego and how she was not sure if she was a girl or a boy. She does dislike her body, which makes her to hide her breasts and look like a tomboy. But this segment is the most dramatic as tells about Chinese traditions that call to leave the family inheritance to the son with a mother worried that her daughter was different and wanted to split the theater troupe in two to assure her daughter future. Also introduces us to a young Diego, as she meets young Lily that then was a singer in a competitor troupe.

But to me the movie is about lesbian love and how unaccepted is by society traditions and human behavior and the lengths that some have to go to have a “normal” life and in a way, the consequences of the life decisions they take.

As a movie it has remarkable cinematography with some excellent framed scenes, good pace, beautiful silences, outstanding music and songs, great tech specs and the indispensable train sequences so popular with Taiwanese and Chinese filmmakers that according to me here are like warps that move segments time and rhythm, especially when the trains go into the tunnel. Performances are good with especial mention to Chao Yi-lan that plays Diego as is the pic’s most striking presence and makes Diego a believable character.

The movie was premiered in competition at the Panorama Section of the 2008 Berlinale and since then it has been around the mainstream and LGTB film festival circuit all over the world.

The literal translation of the movie title means “The Drifting Waves of Youth” and for those not familiar in Taiwanese Diego references a dog, which was why Jing hushed her little sister from repeating what people say about Diego.

Definitively not for all audiences as yes it is arty, but I’m so glad that Zero Chou abandoned her frustratingly abstract style of Spider Lilies and opted for more mature sensitivity for her characters, as the end product looks and feels more credible and not pretentious at all. I suspect not many that like the lesbian interest genre will like this movie as not only is less attractive than Spider Lilies but also Chou tells the story out of sequence and in three segments that does not easily look are related.

Still I highly recommend this movie to some of my known readers that enjoy the lesbian interest genre and also appreciate the work of some great Taiwanese master filmmakers like Hou Hsiao Hsien, as Chou filmmaking style seems moving in that direction even when it has many moons to go to reach the destination.

I loved the movie (then I didn’t enjoyed Spider Lilies) as made me think about so many life things and gave me lots of emotions with the serene storytelling technique Chou chose to implement this time.


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