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L-O-V-E     L-O-V-E

(left) Ethan Ruan and Alice Tzeng, and (right) Tracy Chou look for L-O-V-E.
AKA: Love to the End  
Chinese: 愛到底  
Year: 2009  
Director: Giddens, Vincent Fang Wen-Shan, Chen Yi-Xian, Mickey Huang Zi-Jiao
Cast: Van, Megan Lai Ya-Yan, Mo Zi-Yi, Lee Jing-Mei, Blue Lan, Annie Liu, Alan Kuo, Tammy Chen, Chie Tanaka, Ivy Fan Hsiao-Fan, Ethan Ruan, Alice Tzeng, An Tin, Roy Chiu, Tracy Chou Cai-Shi, Peter Lee Chuan, Wu Jun-Yan, Modi Chiu Yi-Cheng, Louis Liu Lu-Cun, Shawn Jian Xiang-Qi, Ben Weng Rui-Di, Prince Chiu Sheng-Yi, Alec Su, Aisa Senda, Harry Chang, Simon Xue, Chunwha Sakamoto, Charge Pu Hsueh-Liang, Chang Hsiao-Yen, Wilson Chen, Ken Chu, Princess Shin Jing, Lu Yi-Ching, Makiyo Claire Kuo Jing, Ren Ba, Huang You-Fu
The Skinny: Harmless, commercial and remarkably unaccomplished. This omnibus of love stories is okay for what it is, which isn't very much. Taiwanese popstar fans looking to gaze at their idols for ninety minutes should be happy. Everyone else? Probably not.
by Kozo:

If you like staring at attractive Taiwanese idols then L-O-V-E is for you. A fluffy film with four inconsequential love stories, L-O-V-E does exactly what it sets out to do - divert audiences for ninety minutes with predictable emotions and more pretty people than any film truly needs. What it doesn't do is provide anything remotely substantial, as it features barely a handful of moments that one could call inspired or truly effective. The omnibus format guarantees an uneven experience; once you factor in the abundance of popular idols and postmodern romantic themes, you can pretty much guess where it's all headed. This is eye candy for young audiences, and is likely critic-proof because it does exactly what its target audience expects.

L-O-V-E opens with a story featuring singer Van (Cape No.7) and Megan Lai, directed by writer Giddens. The two play madly-in-love young couple Cheng and Yen, whose abundant infatuation with each other can be seen in their playful sparring with collectible Star Wars lightsabers – and we’re talking about the expensive Master Replicas ones and not the cheapo Hasbro children's toys. The wrinkle occurs when Cheng is asked to play stand-in for a dying stranger (Mo Zi-Yi of The Most Distant Course). It seems the two share similar voices, and the sick young man wants someone to comfort his mother via phone after he's gone. There's a nice sentiment in this first tale, but the melodrama gets self-indulgent. The plot twist is a bit much, too.

Directed by famous lyricist Fang Wen-Shan, story two is even more self-indulgent, and possesses a convoluted backstory and questionable acting. Annie Liu plays a sweet girl drafted into appearing in a music video with popstar Lens (Alan Kuo a.k.a. the son of Blackie Ko). She's photogenic and kind, but the director (TV star Blue Lan) gets upset at her participation, and she can't understand why. The revelations behind this story don't turn out to be that exciting, as the proceedings are overshadowed by Blue Lan's brooding overacting and Annie Liu's wooden prettiness. This story has secrets and surprises, plus a subplot involving the shooting of the world's cheesiest music video. The story's pure love emotions and photogenic flashbacks would have been fine for a music video too, but as a short film the whole thing is cloying and unimpressive.

Story three features the best visual language, which already puts it head and shoulders above the previous two. Music video director Chen Yi-Xian directs this minor tale about a stunt driver (Ethan Ruan of mega-popular Taiwan drama You're My Destiny) who laments internally about his inability to communicate with his hot stewardess girlfriend (Alice Tzeng of Secret). The wordless communication during the segment's opening half is good stuff, as are the actors' petulant, believable emotions. Eventually the whole thing devolves into a "race to the airport" finale, complete with melodramatic slow motion and a last-second clinch that would do Michael Bay proud. Nothing truly exceptional occurs here, but for soaring music video emotion, this segment has the goods. The actors are arguably the most attractive, too.

The last story breaks rank from the previous four, going for over-the-top comedy and even more egregious acting. Tracy Chou of basketball drama Hot Shot stars as a bespectacled screecher who laments to the camera, "Why won't someone love me?" The answer: she's insufferable, and yet she goes on undeterred, following a fortune teller's prophecy to find her one-and-only true love. Chou has comic skills, but her over-the-top delivery borders on punishment for the audience. Also punishing are the breathless in-your-face antics; the film practically tramples the audience beneath deliberately corny sound design, rampant overacting, and about five cameos per minute. A ton of Taiwan stars appear in this segment, starting with Wilson Chen and F4's Ken Chu, and ending with members of idol boy band Lollipop. Besides the questionable comedy, the main point of director Mickey Huang's segment is star cameos, so if you can't recognize everyone, then you'll probably be lost and/or annoyed. The saving grace of this last segment? It ends harmlessly.

In fact, the whole film ends harmlessly, which is why knocking L-O-V-E for being unexceptional is probably too mean. Basically, this movie is ninety minutes of time down the drain, and should never be recommended to anyone looking to experience the best of Taiwan's growing commercial cinema. However, the agreeable popstars and emotions are probably exactly what the teens and star chasers anticipating this film are looking for. L-O-V-E is just a frothy product for a specific audience, and serves up the expected with little muss or fuss. Challenging, exciting, or exceptional entertainment this is absolutely not, and if someone in the audience actually paid money expecting anything better then they should probably be blamed. L-O-V-E is largely acceptable because it serves its target audience well. The question then arises: does the target audience for L-O-V-E expect too little? Maybe. (Kozo 2009)


DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Modern Audio
Mandarin Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English Subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc

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image credit: Filmko Copyright ©2002-2017 Ross Chen