Saturday, April 04, 2009

L-O-V-E. (Ai Dao Di / 愛到底)

Eye Candy Ensemble

After the phenomenal box office success of Cape No. 7, it sure didn't take long for leads Van Fan and Tanaka Chie to be starring in the same movie again, albeit not exactly opposite each other, because L-O-V-E. is an anthology of four short films by directors Chen Yi-xian, Vincent Fang, Huang Tzi-chiao, and Jiu Ba Dao, who each were at the helm of their own stories, delivering their own brand of what it means to be in love.

It's perhaps a no-brainer at who the target audience is for this film, having to stuff all the stories with great looking leads, and stories ranging from the saccharine sweet to the brooding and longing, each being tuned to appeal to a spectrum of the audience lured in via the eye candy. If I may I'll break it down for you:

The first story takes a huge leaf out of P.S. I Love You in the setting of its premise. It offers a non-linear narrative to tell a love story with leads Van Fan and Megan Lai, a couple who celebrates their 7th anniversary together by... having a lightsabre fight. And the perennial terminal illness has to kick in, thereby setting this film up for the tried and tested, and very much like going through an episode of some chicken soup for the soul.

The second was something straight out of a Taiwan melodramatic television serial, which actually started off really well with its theme on memories and how they become treasure when shared between two lovers. Put together a singer-photographer (Lens), a gorgeous and out of place looking museum curator (Annie Liu) with a knack for all things old, a hotshot director (Blue Lan) who flares easily when the curator and the singer get intimate in a shooting of a music video. It's a melting pot for emotions to grow into a love triangle, until the very expected twist in the end comes charging in. Convenience here is the key.

Somehow I liked the third one best, even if it really tested one's patience with its relatively long takes of silence. It's about forgiveness, and what matters most, and we see a couple not exactly on talking terms, parting with some animosity after failure to resolve their issues. You can say the pride of a man would sometimes get us into such unnecessary trouble as we hear how his heart echos what he really feels like doing, but without the physical will to swallow his ego. It's draped with plenty of brooding qualities, before building up to an emotionally charged finale, again relying on cliches like the big chase against time to seal everything up with a kiss. Stars Ethan Ruan and Alice Tzeng.

The last film is easily the crowd favourite, judging from the audience's enthusiastic response to the multiple cameo appearances of their teen idols. From Alec Su to Chen Bo-lin and a slew of effeminate looking pop idols (yeah, I can hear the flak I'm getting already), it allowed for plenty of physical comedy with a nerdy looking Tracy Chou playing a desperate woman out looking for her true love, relying on some cheesy self-help video to tell her love fortune, as she rejects one after another on her quest set out for her. You'll probably be laughing along and at the way this film gets constructed, as it brings back some memories of Hong Kong's "mo-lei-tau" (nonsensical) era.

The earlier films had plenty of narration going on for them, that they looked at ease with a typical Wong Kar Wai movie if put side by side. However, the 4th film is so vastly different that it actually sticks out like a sore thumb, though it was one that was the most fun because of its zaniness, and its deliberateness in hamming everything up just for laughs. Suffice to say this is also the crowd's favourite, especially after the melancholic third film.

L-O-V-E. is simply a short film collection of some of the hottest teen idol stars from contemporary Taiwan. If the filmmakers could've found more peers and distilled their shorts to just their essence, they could've come up with the Taiwanese version of Paris Je T'aime. Unfortunately the stories didn't veer from the tried and tested models, and preferred to just coast along plainly, resulting in just an average show on the greatest emotion in which we call love.

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