Dir: Zero Chou. Taiwan, 2007. 97 mins.
Following on from last year's Spider Lilies and seemingly catering for the same market - gay festivals and specialised distribution - Zero Chou's episodic drama about unrequited love through childhood, adolescence and old age is another step in her 'Rainbow Colours' project about finding love in Taiwan.
Less dreamy and featuring a more realistic (if poetic) narrative, the three episodes of Drifting Flowers are tied together by a train entering and exiting various tunnels, with all the characters on board.
Starting out at eight, May (a vivacious Pai Chih-Ying) throws a childish tantrum when she sees her older sister, the blind singer Jing (Serena Fang) kissing her accordionist Diego (Chao Yi Lan). Jealous over this rival for Jing's affections, she is also attracted by the androgynous looking musician. She feels betrayed and excluded and angrily turns her back on her sister.
The second episode starts with a brief flashback in which a bride is caught passionately kissing her girlfriend in a back room on the day of her wedding. Many years later, Lily ((Lu Yi-Ching, a veteran of Tsai Ming Liang films) is now an old woman suffering from Alzheimer's. She is visited by an gay friend, Yen (Sam Wang), who has been betrayed by his boyfriend and is desperate to learn that he is HIV positive. These two broken souls are equally frail and learn out of necessity to lean on each other.
Finally, in an episode which precludes the opening one, the same Diego is uneasy with her sexual identity until she stumbles upon a much younger Lily (Herb Hsu), who dances in a show and opens up new sexual horizons for the confused girl.
Cinematically speaking, Drifting Flowers is a distinct improvement on Spider Lilies; there's a much clearer narrative and a better control of visual language. This is still a pretty schematic, if sympathetic, series of portraits etched on the background of modern Taiwan, however. The common factor for all of the characters is a profound need for true love and affection - in this case specifically for persons of the same sex.
Zero Chou's bittersweet, sentimental approach is never less than supportive of her characters, always underlining their longing for true love, the one recurrent condition that never changes, and wrapping everything up in soft colours and sad, lachrymose songs. Luckily she is assisted by a dedicated cast, with a remarkable Lu-Yi Ching as the old woman whose addled mind is every once in a while visited by flashes of lucidity.
Three Vision Films
Three Dots Entertainment
00 886 2 2777 5152
Director of photography