Sunday, June 22, 2008

Drifting Flowers (Piao Lang Qing Chun) (漂浪青春)

It seems I am fated not to see this film in its entirety. I gave up my ticket for the screening at InsideOut in Toronto last month, I tried unsuccessfully to check out a press screener before the Frameline festival, and I left early from the Castro Theatre screening in order to catch a feature at the Victoria. I did see the first of the three segments of Drifting Flowers, but missed the other two.

In the first segment, we see two orphaned girls: Jing, a nightclub singer who also happens to be blind, and Meigo, her younger sister, just on the cusp of puberty. The two face a daunting challenge, trying to take care of one another, leading Jing to make the wrenching decision to place Meigo in foster care with a wealthy family. But there is a third player in the domestic drama: Chalkie, a butch musician from the nightclub. Chalkie is chasing after Jing, but Meigo has a crush on Chalkie and is bitterly jealous of her sister.

The character of Jing comes across as woefully lacking in self-confidence, forced to rely on others for her day-to-day well-being, but the callous indifference of the strangers she encounters on the street makes that seem more a question of environment and less a matter of personal shortcomings, softening my usual distaste for "shrinking violet" characters. Meigo is a barrel full of monkeys, ready to burst forth at any moment with a torrent of dammed up energy, but yearning for something more. Chalkie appears as the ticket to stability, but only for one or the other sister.

Based only on the first ⅓ of the film, I'd recommend it, although I would hope for some stronger characters in the other two segments.

漂浪青春 (Piao Lang Qing Chun) (Drifting Flowers), dir. 周美玲 (Zero Chou), 2007 Taiwan 97 min., in Taiwanese (臺灣話) with English subtitles; Official website

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