Thursday, August 20, 2009

Lou Ye's Spring Fever

Went to see Lou Ye's Spring Fever last night. Came out with a vaguely uneasy feeling. I can't help but admire his skill as a filmmaker, his use of handheld camera, the lyricism of some of the sections. But I couldn't embrace it somehow, and I wasn't able to put my finger on it. I joked that probably it was because it featured the ugliest drag queen and the most awful singing I'd ever seen.

When I woke up the next morning I found my sub-conscious had digested the film for me as it often does, and I realized why I disliked Spring Fever: none of the characters rang true. I couln't get into what they are like as a person, what they feel and what they want. They are like a straight person's view of what gays are like. Here's the drag queen, the top, the bottom, the married guy, the bi-curious. They are all not so much stereotypes as characatures, products of research rather than true understanding. And I wonder, given that the film was funded by Westerners, whether--intentionally or not--there is an element of self-exploitation (made possible by the fact that the protagonists are Others) in the filmmaker's mind: "Hey guys, this is what gays are like in China. Come and gawk at them!"

One can't help but compare the film to Wong Kar Wei's Happy Together, especially when Lou has one of his characters mimicing Leslie Cheung's dancing to a Latin beat in one of the scenes, but even though Wong is also straight, he approaches his characters not first and foremost as gays but as people, and that is the crucial difference between the two directors.

No comments: