Fri, Apr 02, 2004 - Page 20 News List

Same-sex comedy gives Taiwanese movies a lift

By Yu Sen-lun  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Morning after: Tien (left, Tony Yang) is attracted to playboy Pai (Duncan) in the Taiwanese movie Formula 17.


If Taiwan's abundant TV soap operas have finally achieved something it is that they have helped create pretty-faced pop idols for the movie Formula 17 (十七歲的天空). And some of them have the potential to become movie stars.

Formula 17 can be seen as one of those rare finds, not only because it is a gay romantic comedy, but it is also one of the few Taiwanese movies that discards the "tradition" of social realism. It is a commercial drama, sugar-coated with good-looking actors, bright colors, designer fashions and furniture. The movie does not intend to delve into deeper meaning about society or human feelings, as many other Taiwanese filmmakers try to do. As pure entertainment, it is indeed a different breed of Taiwanese movie.

Tien (Tony Yang, 楊佑寧) is a naive 17 year-old boy from southern Taiwan and goes to Taipei in search of his dream lover. He stays with his high school friend Yu (King Chin, 金勤), a popular DJ at a gay bar.

Under the instruction of Yu and his campy friends, Tien learns to dress up and tries a few blind dates. He meets Pai (Duncan), the most chased (gay) bachelor in town and immediately falls for him. But Tien's "sisters" all advise him to stay away from this dangerous attraction, for Pai is a well-known playboy who, unlike the naive Tien, does not believe in love.

Formula 17 is surely trying to create a gay utopian vision of Taipei where there are no women, no heterosexual men, only pretty-looking or muscular gay men in bars, fashion stores or men's gyms. The underlying theme is love and believing in love.

In contrast to many Western gay movies such as The Birdcage or The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, there are no mentions of drag queens or transvestite phenomena, though there are some characters who have exaggerated camp qualities.

Film Notes:

Formula 17

Directed by: Chen Yin-jung (陳映蓉)

Starring: Tony Yang (楊佑寧), Duncan, King Chin (金勤), Dada Liu (季宏全), Jimmy Yang (楊俊明), Jason, Chang (張大鏞)

Running time: 90 minutes

Taiwan Release: today

Language: Mandarin with Chinese subtitles

The scriptwriter of the movie tries hard, sometimes too hard, to be funny. There are plenty of jokes, but the film director isn't quite able to pull them off. In some of the scenes, the actors look as if they are reading the lines instead of acting.

Fortunately, the good casting and good performances have saved the movie. Tony Yang, Duncan and three actors playing the gay roles have done decent jobs, especially Yang, who shows a different side to his TV drama work. After Formula 17, he could be taking up roles in bigger movies.

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