Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Love & Protest: Girlfriend Boyfriend—GF BF
the 1980’s, student protesters across Taiwan started demanding a more
democratic form of government. By 1997,
the country functioned much like our own duly elected but media-driven dysfunctional
system. While historic events unfold on
a macro level, three classmates struggle with their own messily intertwined
lives and loves in Yang Ya-che’s Girlfriend
Boyfriend—GF BF (trailer
opens this Friday in New York.
school magazine editor Aaron is passionate about Mabel and the democracy
movement. She likes him well enough and
supports the cause, to an extent, but she really has eyes for Liam. Though he has affection for her too, it is definitely
of the “just friends” variety. He pines
for Aaron instead, but realizes that simply is not to be. Eventually, Aaron wins Mabel over, at least temporarily,
but the three keep in close contact for the next decade or so, which leads to
considerable pain and complications for them all. Meanwhile, they watch from the student
barricades as political reform sweeps across Taiwan.
GF BF’s premise certainly lends
itself to melodrama, but Yang’s approach to the material is unexpectedly
restrained. Frankly, he passes up
several golden opportunities for tearjerking.
Similarly, he consistently eschews didacticism when depicting the
student movement. In fact, the orderly, matter-of-fact
manner the film portrays Taiwan’s revolutionary liberalization is rather
surprising (and telling).
GF BF has a wistful air of innocence
lost that leaves quite an impression.
Cinematographer Jake Pollock’s early candle-lit night scenes are particularly
evocative. There is a real sense of time
passing in the film, even though its ridiculously attractive cast never seems
to age a crow’s foot over a dozen or so trying years.
would want to see Gwei Lun Mei age anyway?
As Mabel, she vividly projects earnest sensitivity, without degenerating
into an emotional basket case. It is a
perfect starring vehicle for her. Likewise,
Joseph Chang is also a pretty effective tortured slow burner as Liam. However, Rhydian Vaughan never really gets
inside Aaron, leaving viewers with the impression of a rather shallow opportunist.
is hard not to favorably compare the response to the Wild Lily Student Movement
with the Tiananmen Square protests just one year earlier, but that is hardly GF BF’s central point. It is sort of like a Taiwanese Jules & Jim, intensified by tumultuous
social change and the closeted homosexual dynamic added to their mismatched
the lives it presents, GF BF can be a
bit unwieldy, but it is consistently engaging viewing and also fascinating as a
reflection of current Taiwanese socio-political attitudes. Recommended for those who enjoy a love
triangle with a very definite sense of time and place, Girlfriend Boyfriend opens this Friday (8/3) in New York at the AMC
Empire and Village 7, as well as in San Francisco at the AMC Metreon and
Cupertino Square, courtesy of China Lion Entertainment.
Labels: Gwei Lun Mei, Taiwanese Cinema