Taiwan, 2012, colour, 2.35:1, 76 mins.
Director: Chen Yingrong 陈映蓉.
Undeveloped mix of fantasy and modern-hippy elements is more like an extended music video.
Taibei, the present day. Struck by TV broadcasts that the world is heading towards chaos, spaced-out wannabe rock singer Wu Anliang (Wang Bojie) tries to covince his friend Hao (Abe Tsuyoshi), a carpentry teacher, to set up a country of their own. Hao is dubious. But after one drunken night, the two wake up in the flat of young Russian Adele (Larisa Bakurova), with whom they form a ménage à trois. The three set up a website called Klaatu, a kind of virtual Noah’s Ark to escape the coming Apocalypse and challenge the existing world hegemony. The website attracts worldwide notice. But then one night Wu Anliang is transported into another dimension, in which he appears to be alone in Taibei and wanders in search of his two friends.
The first feature in six years from Taiwan writer-director Chen Yingrong 陈映蓉, 31, Young Dudes 骚人 starts out attractively like a larky, Asian-youth version of Jules et Jim (1962) but then loses its way (along with the hero) in a kind of rock-hippy, futuristic fantasy about some kind of apocalypse. Almost a decade ago, Chen made a splash with gay male rom-com Formula 17 十七岁的天空 (2004), but then failed to follow through on her promise with the subsequent comedies Catch 国士无双 (2006) and Stand In Love 不完全恋人 (2007). Though it’s the shortest and least structured of her four features to date – and deliberately so in its free-wheeling visual style and lack of any real narrative – it still shows the same inability to develop ideas and stay focused that weakened both Catch and Stand.
Before the film starts running off the rails at the 40-minute mark, it has a likeable dry humour and youthful energy in the performances of Wang Bojie 王柏杰 (Winds of September 九降风, 2008; Bodyguards and Assassins 十月围城, 2009) as the spacey, metrosexual lead and Chinese-Japanese actor Abe Tsuyoshi 阿部力 (from Chen’s Catch) as his more grounded friend. As the female filling in their friendship sandwich, Taiwan-based Ukrainian-Greek model Larisa Bakurova is bright and perky but doesn’t register as a character with any individuality or background. With its cool song track, tendency to slip into montages at the drop of a hat, and reluctance to take any idea beyond its starting point, Young Dudes would work equally well as a 20-minute short or an extended music video. On the strength of her dream-like episode in the portmanteau Taipei 24H 台北异想 (2009), those are forms Chen seems more naturally attuned to than feature-length movies.
On a technical level, the atmospheric background score by Macau-born rock duo Soler and versatile photography by Zhou Yixian 周宜贤 are both notable. Excluding end credits, the film barely scrapes 70 minutes.
Presented by Filmagic Pictures (TW). Produced by Filmagic Pictures (TW).
Script: Chen Yingrong. Photography: Zhou Yixian. Editing: Chen Yingrong. Music: Soler. Art direction: Chen Shuyu. Costume design: Shi Xiaorou. Sound: Zheng Xuzhi [Frank Cheng]. Visual effects: PXFly.
Cast: Wang Bojie (Wu Anliang/Adam), Abe Tsuyoshi (Hao/Guy), Larisa Bakurova (Adele), Tai Zhiyuan (Klaatu elder doctor), Hu Tingting (Klaatu nurse), Gao Yingxuan (Klaatu younger doctor), Ang Weiling (Wu Anliang’s online friend).
Premiere: Hong Kong Film Festival (Young Cinema Competition), 23 Mar 2012.
Release: Taiwan, 31 Aug 2012.
(Review originally published on Film Business Asia, 11 Apr 2012.)