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Thread: NY ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL Aug. 28-Sept. 12, 2020 online

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    DEAR LONELINESS 致親愛的孤獨者 (Lien Chien-hung, Sunny Yu, Liao Che-yi 2019)

    LIEN CHIEN-HUNG, SUNNY YU, LIAO CHE-YI: DEAR LONELINESS 致親愛的孤獨者 (2019)


    LIU KUAN-TING IN DEAR LONELINESS

    Girls on their own

    There is more: a TV series and a novel are tied in with these three short films about young women and sexual fantasy commissioned by a Taipei production company called Dream Image. Surprisingly, they shorts draw inspiration from a two-part documentary on 80 of Taiwan’s independent bookstores. The bookstore is in the first short and the third but only as a resting place in the second. Loneliness is a common theme, but in quite different ways. These three shorts are fine, but, being by different directors, are different in theme and feeling. If there's a common literal object, it's not so much books but cell phones. Not for that reason, or not alone for it, the three shorts' cumulative impression is very sad.

    Why did the first of the three remind me of Gaspar Noé's wife Lucile Hadžihalilović? Because there's something at once extreme and creepy and sensuous and pretty about it. The girl (Lin Chi-en?), whose name Xiaoyu (Cih En Lin) is as unspellable as Hadžihalilović, doesn't look twelve, though her boy classmates do. She's a little plain, but also a seductress. Strangely, her erotic fantasies of sexy Teacher David (Chung Cheng-Chun), licking him all over, etc. have nothing to do with reality, and yet she somehow does manage to get him fired for inappropriate behavior just the same. She has little real inner life, so we don't know what she might have felt about what happens. The other teacher is a monster. He gives Chinese poetry a bad name. His screaming commands are hysterical. The girl Xiaoyu is very sly. What is she doing on the smartphone she steals and hides in the bathroom, with its Turkish-style toilet seen from high above? This is a strangely tense and economical piece and a reminder that depictions of school life are one of the best ways to make films about weirdly warped and frustrated human behavior. This is an excellent short film and its mix of fantasy and reality is just right.

    Second short's girl establishes more sense and control. She arrives in town with pink daypack and roller-blade suitcase with simple questions. "Where is the girls' dorm?" "Is this room 2019?" Her name is easy: Chan Kai Han (Angel Lee). This is a tale of alienation and bureaucratic hassles and Chinese meanness that is first Kafkaesque and then violent and finally bitterly ironic. Wow! Another excellent short film that's sure to leave memories. Imagine going away to college and when you get there, they have no room for you, and your parents blame you for it. A very sardonic world vew is here.

    Third and longest short focuses on Xun or Hsun (Janine Chang or Chang Chun-ning or ‎Ning Chang or Zhang Jun-ning: there is little hope of getting a grip on a Chinese name if you're not Chinese), a twenty-something newcomer to Taipei from the provinces who ekes out a living, after a worse sex worker job, off playing flirtatious visits to lovelorn inmates. They are paid for this. Really? How does this work exactly? Instructions from the girls' 'boss' (who of course like any pimp has designs on the girls, prior access) are to open your jacket and show cleavage, act happy, and say you'll "wait for him" and be his girlfriend when he comes out. Second inmate she sees is #2923 (Liu Kuan-ting), a big young man with a sensitive face and sad eyes - he reminded me of one of Claire Denis' great regulars, Grégoire Colin. He does not speak at all the first visit, but asks for her for next time. The relationship continues. There's no use trying to cheer up the prisoner, and Hsun becomes honest. #2923 sees through her cheeriness. He speaks in favor of loneliness and - here comes the tie-in: when she asks where she can go for a quiet escape, he recommends she spend the day in a bookstore. The Grégoire Coin lookalike has rapidly become adorable. But also a little predictable, and this segment doesn't quite justify its extra length. The bookend of the three, a writer-bookstore owner and his musings, and the closing song, are trite and unworthy of the vivid short stories. If you're looking for a short film collection, this presents three promising young filmmakers.

    Dear Loneliness 致親愛的孤獨者, 99 mins., was released in Taiwan Sept. 2019. It was screened for this review as paort of the NY Asian Film Festival 2020 virtual edition (Aug. 28- Sept. 12).
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 09-05-2020 at 05:33 PM.

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