Double Trouble (寶島雙雄)
TV host Chang Fei (張菲) makes a return to the big screen in this action comedy that takes its inspiration from the flood of tourists from China now visiting Taiwan. The story revolves around a Chinese tourist, played by Xia Yu (夏雨), who gets separated from his tour group on a visit to Taiwan. He meets up with a kind stranger, played by Jacycee Fong (房祖名), and the two travel the island. Was their meeting pure coincidence? Of course not. In addition to the quaint portrayal of various Taiwanese stereotypes, there is plenty of sock-chop-fu action and the inevitable car chase.
Cha Cha for Twins (寶米恰恰)
A light hearted drama about first love, enlivened with a twist: The central characters, both played by young actress Huang Pei-jia (黃姵嘉), are a set of twins. Most of the drama and the humor derives from the fact that apart from their parents, most people can’t tell the two girls apart. This necessarily leads to all kinds of confusion as ardent young men become infatuated, but are never sure which twin they are talking to. Written and directed by Yang Yi-chien (楊貽茜), an award-winning novelist, the story is based on her own experience growing up a twin, but the film doesn’t seem to get much beyond platitudes about being your own person.
Lost in Paradise
Life is tough for rent boys working the seedy fringes of Ho Chi Min City, but director Vu Ngoc Dang, one of the hottest properties in Vietnam’s entertainment industry, does not seem willing to face the gritty realities of what is clearly intended as a hard hitting expose, but which ends up drowning in sentimentality. Everything is given the soft focus treatment, and even though the publicity describes Lost in Paradise as Vietnam’s most boldly revealing film to date, it is not much more than very soft core gay porn with a bit of a social conscience.
My True Friend
Described in local press material as a Thai version of the successful youth gang movie Monga (艋舺), My True Friend has plenty of good looking boys and girls pretending to be tough street kids already deeply involved in violent criminality. Inevitably, this is set against a background of adolescent romance, with various alpha males battling it out with fists and knives to get the girl, discovering things about loyalty, friendship and courage along the way.
A French film by director Laurent Bouhnik skirts the edges of soft core porn by pretending to be about deeper human relations. It is a conventional enough genre format that might be described as “existential porn,” with the wide variety graphically shown erotic acts being part of Cecil’s (played by Deborah Revy) efforts to get some balance back into her life after the death of her father. Pre and post coital philosophizing is rampant, and the cast are certainly good to look at, so you don’t mind too much that most of the talk doesn’t lead anywhere.
Tatsumi is an animated documentary feature by Singaporean director Eric Khoo about the Japanese manga artist Yoshihiro Tatsumi, who created a new genre in manga. Instead of tech crazed teens and buxom monster-slaying nymphets, Tatsumi looked into the spiritual darkness of post-war Japan to create powerful stories of incest, murder and mutilation. The background story of Tatsumi’s life is rendered in a pictorial style similar to his manga work, but Khoo’s slushy tone of homage is at odds with his subject’s nihilism. It is nevertheless a valuable introduction to the work of an artist whose work deserves to be better known.