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The film focuses on three city folks who unknowingly share the same apartment: Mei, a real estate agent who uses it for her sexual affairs; Ah-jung, her current lover; and Hsiao-ang, who's stolen the key and uses the apartment as a retreat. Written by
L.H. Wong <firstname.lastname@example.org>
An anti-film that pulls a cinematic rabbit out of its hat
First, the video box is very deceptive. This film is NOT about intense, erotic encounters with some hidden gay voyeur taking it all in.
Somewhere in Taipei is a nice apartment. A young gay guy, (who is lonely as hell and sells cremation urns) gets the key by bolding plucking it out of the lock while no one is looking. An attractive young female real estate agent who, while trying to sell or rent the place, also uses it, checks up on it, stops in to take a crap, or a lie down, or take a guy there for hot, but causal sex. The guy she takes up there is a well off street vendor. He gets his key by swiping it from her after the sex. It is more of a situation than a story.
Vive L'Amour takes a studied, hypernaturalistic approach that is a strong style statement in itself (an effect partly due to turning up the 'natural' sounds accompanying an action a notch or two and by not using music.) And despite her good looks and movie actress head of hair, the real estate agent is presented again and again as completely nonglamourous. She is always behaving in slightly exaggerated ways that show she is just a woman like any other. This is epitomized in the crap taking scene in the apartment, but there is also the scene where she cries: beautiful women in the movies usually cry with just their eyes, but here we get rich, rolling, mucal snorts that come straight from the nose. A lot of the film is spent following her completely unromanticized daily routine trying to sell or rent properties. As counter-point, and equally deliberately, we there are little movie touches: the big hair, all the actors are attractive, little bits of romantic/comedic chatter, the comedy/buddy goings on between the guys (who of course run into each other in the apartment--more movie comedy stuff), and so on.
In the end Tsai manages to masterfully blend these contradictory forces into a climax that interweaves three (one per character) magical cinematic moments: Tenderness, Innocence, and Sadness. Vive L'Amour is fine, intelligent and moving film making.
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