Taiwan, 2011, colour, 1.85:1, 102 mins.
Director: Chen Hongyi 陈宏一.
Vacuous meditation, set among a group of Taibei chatroomers, on the transience of love and things.
Taibei, 2010. Radio show hostess Vicky (Zeng Peiyu), who likes going round the city photographing buildings, is looking for her boyfriend Dog (Li Daqi), who disappeared on 1 Jan, leaving behind some photos. While searching on his chatroom website missing.com/ing, she comes across many of his other friends, all of whom attend Datong High School. She meets one of them, Cola (Qiu Shengyi), who has fallen for punky drummer Cheesebaby, aka Money (Lin Chenxi), and has an angry-at-the-world boyfriend, Assassin (Lin Bosheng). She also discovers someone called Cat is looking for Dog. Vicky tracks down Playing (Xie Xinying), who plays dangerous games with men she sleeps with and has been connected with many who recently disappeared. Meanwhile, Cheesebaby takes Cola to meet her grandmother, who has an ancient computer that can still read a floppy disk that Dog left behind. On it are random philophical thoughts that Cola transcribes and gives to Vicky. Assassin, who’s angry at the time Cheesebaby is spending with Cola, and is also falling apart metally and physically, then takes up with the dangerous Playing.
Whereas the first feature by Chen Hongyi 陈宏一, the flirtatious lesbian omnibus Candy Rain 花吃了那女孩 (2008), was light but vacuous, his second outing, Honey PuPu 消失打看, is simply annoyingly pretentious – yet another movie about alienated, disconnected Taiwan youth that has nothing to say about people who have nothing to say. A loosely strung-together series of episodes masquerading as a feature, the film shows Chen’s background as a philosophy graduate and prolific commercials director in both its content and its visuals, as a group of youngsters (known only by their chatroom aliases) hang around Taibei talking about love, the end of the world and the disappearance of things while a late-night radio DJ tries to find her vanished boyfriend.
Candy Rain had the advantage of each episode only lasting 20 minutes or so, whereas Honey PuPu tries to sustain a single idea – the transience of things – over 100 minutes, stirring in classical music extracts (Beethoven, J.S. Bach, Saint-Saëns, Mozart), jagged editing, arch voiceovers and manga-like graphics to disguise its central poverty of thought. It’s the kind of movie that tries to make Taibei and its young denizens look hip and stylish but only succeeds in making them look provincial and empty.
As in Candy Rain, performances vary wildly. On the plus side, Lin Chenxi 林辰唏 (the sassy younger sister in Taipei Exchanges 第36个故事, 2009) makes an interesting construct out of the punky, nihilistic Cheesebaby, and Xie Xinying 谢欣颖 – though way better as an actress in the mystery-drama Make Up 命运化妆师 (2011) – at least looks believable as the dangerously sexy Playing. As Cheesebaby’s permanently angry boyfriend Assassin, boyband member Lin Bosheng 林柏升 brings some passion and humour to the proceedings, but actress-model Zeng Peiyu 曾佩瑜 (the prostitute in Parking 停车, 2008) is bland as the radio DJ.
An on-screen quote from late US writer-philospher Conrad Aiken unwittingly sums up the movie itself: “In the beginning, nothing…in the end, nothing.”
Presented by Red Society Films (TW). Produced by Red Society Films (TW).
Script: Chen Hongyi, Wu Nunu & Xia Pei’er [Monica & Shaballe], Lin Fujing. Photography: Yu Jingping. Editing: Chen Hongyi, Liu Yuexing, Lin Fujing. Music: Telephone Booth & Barbie. Art direction: Kang Junwei. Costume design: Huang Yu’nan, Liu Jiayu. Sound: Yang Jian’an, Du Duzhi. Visual effects: Dottodot Design Studio.
Cast: Zeng Peiyu (Vicky), Lin Chenxi (Cheesebaby/Money), Xie Xinying (Playing), Li Daqi (Dog), Qiu Shengyi (Cola), Lin Bosheng (Assassin), Ke Yulun (Sam), Qiu Yanxiang (man), Bridget Dennison (Taffy, Cola’s American cousin).
Premiere: Hong Kong Film Festival (I See It My Way), 23 Mar 2011.
Release: Taiwan, 29 Apr 2011.
(Review originally published on Film Business Asia, 6 Aug 2011.)