Seven Films later…
Over half a dozen films later and I suddenly realised to my regret that Love Juice was probably the last one in my current series of reviews. I had drawn up a list of 10 films in this genre, plus one more towards the end of this year, when it became available on general release in Japan. But I’ve found it neigh on impossible to get my hands on copies of the last three.
- Fish and Elephant (2001, China, Hidden Love)
- Ji Sor aka. The intimates (1997, Korea, Drama)
- Memento Mori aka. Whispering Corridors II (1999, Korea, Fantasy/Thriller)
- Drifting Flowers (2007, Taiwan, Three story drama montage)
The first two are not in general circulation. The third, I can’t find the Japanese title of it and Drifting is not released in Japan yet, so unless I find some wicked torrents, I’m out of luck.
So, let’s just recap on the seven films that I did manage to see. I’ll list them in my own personal order of merit.
Butterfly / Hu Die (Human Drama – 2004, Hong Kong)
Thirty something family woman has a chance encounter with a young singer which reawakens her repressed sexuality. How does she come to terms with her old, true self in the face of her new, stable life she’s built for herself?
This heartfelt personal drama is a story about being true to yourself and coming to terms with your past. If you can keep track of the parallel story-lines played out in fragmeted, non-linear flashbacks, then this film shines for it’s unprecidented background to the main characters, the depth and realism of the issues tackled and the moral ambiguity that is left open to the viewer to fill in.
Although Yan Yan Mak perhaps tried to bite off a little more than the audience can chew, she packed a surprising about of background and depth into her second major film.
- Two Big Thumbs Up
Spider Lilies (Human Drama : 2007, Taiwan)
A young webcam girl goes to get a tatoo done only to realise that her tatooist is a woman she had a crush on nine years before. Unfortunately for her, the tatooist has chosen to expunge all traces of her traumatic past from her memory, along with the memory a lonely little girl she once met.
This is a moving, dark tale about memory and why some choose to remember and some choose to forget. Again the lead roles are played impeccably and the story fleshes out the characters bit by bit by referring to their past and how they got to where they are today.
Although the second film by Zero Chou starts off well, she looses control of the plot threads causing the story to derail about 30 minutes from the end and rumble over rough terrain in search of new track. Despite the grinding, ambiguous ending, the storytelling, characters and their relationships carry this fine film through to conclusion.
- Two thumbs up
Love/Juice (Romantic Drama / Black Comedy : 2000, Japan)
An unconventional relationship between two girls, one lesbian and one straight is so close that they’re practically a single person. Their offbeat lifestyle gets complicated when one’s love of the other starts to turn to frustration and jealousy at her lack of reciprocation.
Probably the most quirky, least trodden story of the lot, this low budget classic, black-comedy and romance delves into the murky depths of love and examines the blurry region that exists between deep, platonic love and sexual desire. The handheld cameras, grainy footage and cramped, tight locations lend this film a personality and intimacy that larger budget flicks often lack.
- Two thumbs up
Red Doors (Family Comedy – 2005, US)
This lighthearted family comedy follows the lives of the Wongs, a suburban American Chinese family with a retiring father who’s trying to regain his raison d’etre after retirement and three intelligent, beautiful daughters, one of whom is lesbian, trying to balance their own lives with those of their fellow family members.
Although this movie suffers slightly by introducing a few too many of the cultural stereotypes that tend to plague mainstream cinema and prevent this film from rising to even greater heights, it more than delivers in sheer quality of all the acting, the slick dialogue, excellent set pieces and of course, the pinpoint humour regarding the generational gaps between characters. Without doubt the most entertaining film of the whole bunch.
- Big Thumbs Up
Saving Face (Romance – 2004, US)
This is the story of a successful and competant surgeon who is quite certain of her sexuality, though up until now, she has never let it get in the way of her work. When she falls for the daughter of the chief surgeon, her boss, she has to question her lifestyle and choices she’s made. The close proximity of all concerned and a mother with a secret who is in denial of what she knows about her daughter who has not come out to the family yet all conspire to put pressure on her and force her to make some important decisions.
A mainstream film with a great cast, including one of my all-time-favourites, Joan Chen!
Alice Wu manages to create a meaningful, believable modern society as a backdrop to this movie. The two main character work great together on screen for a lovable, heartwarming story with enough twists and turns to keep the audience busy from beginning to end.
- Big Thumbs Up
The Botanist’s Daughters (Arthouse Drama – 2006, France)
A strict but brilliant botanist lives on beautiful a garden island with his dutiful daughter. Their stable but monotonous life is turned upside down on the arrival of an intern student who falls for the daughter of the botanist, resulting in bitter consequences for all involved.
A gorgeously shot film with moments of true grandeur and beauty, dragged down by awkward plot twists and an extremely unwieldy ending. The main actresses look gorgeous, if difficult to empathize with.
- One thumbs up
Love My Life (Drama – 2006, Japan)
An “ideal” lesbian couple’s relationship is split asunder when one of them realises that she should be concentrating on her career rather than her love life.
Oh purleez, this barftastic amateur flick by an ex softcore porno director reeks of mediocre acting and straight to video production values. Despite being embarrassingly gratuitous, the soft focus shots of bon bon swapping are about as risque as this picture gets, mildly titillating without ever engaging.
At least with real pornography, the poor acting is offset by up close and personal visuals. Instead, the unhappy compromise choosen for this film means that it is destined to satisfy virtually nobody.