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Friday, January 20, 2006

Vive l'Amour: In praise of love [DVD note]

Starring Yang Kuei-Mei, Lee Kang-Sheng, Chen Chao-Jung
Written by Tsai Ming-Liang, Tsai Yi-Chun and Yang Pi-Ying
Directed by Tsai Ming-Liang

Viva l'Amour ends with two stunning scenes. The second, and the one more frequently cited as extraordinary, sees May (Yang Kuei-Mei) walk through a city park torn into mud. Then in a six minute shot, she cries, cries, dries her eyes, smokes, and cries. Dennis Lim notes "the fade to black arrives just as you've convinced yourself she could go on weeping forever".

Before this, Hsiao-Kang (Lee Kang-Sheng), who has been masturbating under the bed while May and Ah-Jung (Chen Chao-Jung) fucked, crawls out after May has left in the morning. He moves to leave, but returns and lies, staring, on the opposite side of the bed from Ah-Jung. He inches closer, while the sleeping Ah-Jung rolls an arm across him. Hsiao-Kang plants a kiss just beside of Ah-Jung's mouth, then slips away.

May cries because she can't connect with Ah-Jung. In the dialogue-free first twentysomething minutes (if you think this is long, Goodbye, Dragon Inn doubles it), May and Ah-Jung repeatedly cross paths, yet act like they're strangers. It seems like part of an erotic game, and indeed we're not surprised when we soon see nipplesucking. While Ah-Jung is nonchalant about it all, taking a good lay in his stride, May, who for all we know suggested they behave this way, longs for something deeper but doesn't ask for it -- surely she knows what the response would be.

Yang gets the big scene, but Tsai's muse Lee takes the movie. The gently terrified Hsiao-Kang at first appears a hopeless case -- utterly alone, too inept to even get close to success in suicide. His first moments of intimacy are with a melon: he kisses it; carves fingerholes into it; bowls it into a wall, smashing it; eats a bit; then anoints himself, soaking his face with the remains. If this man can earn himself a flicker of light, May shouldn't give up yet.


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