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Drifting Flowers
Drifting Flowers     Drifting Flowers

(left) Serena Fang, and (right) Chao Yi-Lan and Herb Hsu in Drifting Flowers.
Chinese: 漂浪青春  
Year: 2008  
Director: Zero Chou  
  Producer: Sunny Chen, Liu Yun-Hou
  Writer: Zero Chou
  Cast: Lu Yi-Ching, Serena Fang, Chao Yi-Lan, Sam Wang, Herb Hsu, Pai Chih-Ying
  The Skinny: The latest from Spider Lilies director Zero Chou, Driifting Flowers is pleasant and quietly affecting, and a real step up from her previous feature. Not much new happens, but the actors and the atmosphere make it worth a look.
by Kozo:

Director Zero Chou impresses with Drifting Flowers, her follow-up to the attractive but frustratingly abstract Spider Lilies. A trio of interrelated Taiwan-set stories detailing homosexual relationships, Drifting Flowers is unoriginal yet engaging, and features sympathetic characters and situations. The first segment tells the tale of eight-year-old May (Pai Chih-Ying), who lives under the care of her blind sister Jing (Serena Fang), a singer in a three-person lounge act. One of her colleagues is the tall Diego (Chao Yi-Lan), whose boyish haircut and butch manner of dress signal her sexual orientation like a bright red flag. Diego becomes close to the two sisters, and May becomes attached to Diego in return. That is, until she grows jealous of Diego's affection towards Jing, and decides that her sister is trying to steal Diego for herself. May's feelings for Diego are innocent rather than romantic, but the situation spins inevitably out of control due to May's inability to separate reality from her active imagination. With society nominally against the entire situation, the two sisters suffer a split that may take years to mend, if ever. At once frustrating and understandable, the first segment takes a few shortcuts narratively, but its emotions feel earned.

Segment two tells the languid tale of aged Lily (Lu Yi-Ching), who once married Yen (Sam Wang), with their union intended to mask their respective gay lifestyles. Years later, Lily is suffering from Alzheimer's after the loss of her longtime partner, and Yen shows up again to secure her release from the hospital. However, the demented Lily mistakes her fake partner for her real partner, leading to some gentle gender-bending comedy, and extenuating circumstances where Yen stays on to watch over his ailing wife-in-name-only. Meanwhile, Yen has other issues: he's HIV-positive, and his relationship with a younger man is on the rocks. Actor Sam Wang could have made Yen a caricature, but he carries the middle segment of the film with a sympathetic performance. Actress Lu Yi-Ching is better, and manages to make Lily's plight both human and humorous. The actors are the highlight of the middle segment, giving their characters personality and their relationship a genuine-seeming weight.

Segment three brings back Diego (Chao Yi-Lan again), as we witness her teen years, when she was on the verge of finally accepting her true sexuality. Her family runs a local puppet theatre, but her mother is concerned that Diego may not be taking the common path towards marriage, and wonders how she can provide for herself one day. The thought is to split the theatre business into two, with Diego taking one half and her brother the other, but not everyone in the family is cool with the idea. Also, the business is in danger from newer, racier forms of entertainment. The situation comes to a minor head when a traveling vaudeville show comes to town featuring the younger Lily (Herb Hsu) as its leggy, midriff-baring lead. Diego and Lily form a quick friendship, and from there the plot is predictable. Not that it matters; the story's charm lies in its earnest emotions and not in intricate plotting, and the generous focus on the characters and actress Chao Yi-Lan's striking debut performance are worth noting. Drifting Flowers is Chao's first screen credit, and the presence and charisma she brings mark her as a talent to watch.

The best thing about Drifting Flowers is that it's a large improvement from the overstuffed and over-calculated Spider Lilies. Drifting Flowers has meaning, but it's gleamed from characters and situations, and not from obvious, over-extended metaphor or exotic, pretentious detail. There are some missteps; the film is hardly groundbreaking, plus it possesses one cloying self-referential moment, and the final wrap-up is unnecessary in how it tries to tie all three segments of the film together. Still, Zero Chou shows sensitivity towards her characters, and her exploration of their lives is illuminating enough to shine through any potential issues. Drifting Flowers feels compelling in its earnest sincerity, and its lack of overt film technique make it pleasant to simply observe and enjoy. Likewise, the portrait of rural Taiwan is fascinating in its cultural detail, and the cinematography and technical work is solid and pleasing to the senses. Drifting Flowers echoes the style of filmmaking that international audiences expect of art-oriented Taiwan Cinema, but it doesn't stray from the simple things, not becoming too abstract or too commercial. Like in Spider Lilies, Zero Chou seems to be exploring a personal theme, but in Drifting Flowers, the situations feel more credible and the characters less manufactured. Her improvement should be appreciated. (Kozo 2008)


Region 1 NTSC
Wolfe Video
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Mandarin Language Track
Removable English Subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc

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