Recently, we have noticed an increasing trend in multinational productions featuring short films by several directors. For example, we have Three, Three Extremes, Eros, and the BMW Films. Actually such practice was not uncommon in Europe in the 60s; the difference is that Asian directors were overlooked back then (with the possible exception of Japanese directors), and are now usually at the forefront of these films.
ABOUT LOVE is a 3-part romantic film featuring the talent of China, Japan, and Taiwan -- although the names would not be as famous as the directors of Three Extremes. In each short film, there is a He and a She, and one is always Japanese, the other Chinese. All 3 are highly evocative, although each part evokes distinct emotions.
The first short film is an upbeat fairytale from Ten Shimoyama (St. John's Wort). In Tokyo, the story begins with a woman Michiko receiving a phone call from Tecchan, while going through her daily wandering in the midst of 20 million people. It has been 1320 hours since her boyfriend failed to return, and her boyfriend just ended their 3-year relationship with a 4 second phone call. She finds comfort from a Chinese student (Chen Bo-lin of BLUE GATE CROSSING) who posts drawings on her door, drawings of her gradually recovering. This part is short and sweet, filled with the wonderful nightscape of Chen Bo-lin riding through Tokyo in solitude. The super evocative music perfectly complements the imagery.
One word to describe part 1: Fairytale. [10/10]
The second segment actually precedes the first part in terms of time line. In Taipei, unable to sleep, a woman spends all night pounding nails into a bookshelf to release her frustration. She calls Tecchan (whose voice we hear in part 1) on the phone to come over. She doesn't speak Japanese, while his Chinese proficiency is probably 5%, but that doesn't stop them from attempting to communicate. In the hands of Yee Chin-yen (dir: BLUE GATES CROSSING), this part has a more experimental style, featuring super lengthy takes and not-so-smooth cuts. The style, along with the emotionally unstable and disillusioned protagonist, are bordering Wong Kar Wai territory. The most memorable scene from the movie can be found in this segment: in a 3-minute scene, he tries to deliver her a message in Chinese. They go back and forth decoding the exact message, full of repetition, but she knows that he is just trying to make her feel better; he is helping her to keep the last inch of hope alive. The result is both hilarious (esp if you know the Chinese language) and heartfelt. For those who have seen BLUE GATES CROSSING, it's the equivalent of the lengthy chair-pushing scene, but here the repetition is even more striking.
This segment illustrates the impossibility to let go, and what one can do to fill the emptiness. The main characters' complexity are also the strongest here. Feelings of loss, missing, incomplete, dependency, vulnerability, longing are inevitable. [9/10] (I took off one point for his not only frustrating, but also irritating attempt at speaking Chinese. It goes beyond believable sometimes)
Our last stop is Shanghai. The life of working class girl YunYun has been lacking, until the arrival of a Japanese teacher. Instead of going to school, she is working as cashier at her home store, and studying at home. At some point, he stole her heart, but he is too busy fulfilling his dream (for which he came to Shanghai) to notice. His ex-girlfriend also waited for him, but she realized it was only his dream, not hers. For YunYun, love hurts. One year later, he returns to Shanghai, to finally discover the true love that he missed. And yet, the walls of YunYun's family residence has been crumbled, the neighborhood nonexistent. In the midst of 10+ million people, how can he find this girl whose heart he melted, and finally grant her the comfort of being in his arms?
One word summary for segment 3: poignant. [8/10]
3 flavors of love, 3 unforgettable experiences. Romance doesn't get much better than ABOUT LOVE.
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