Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
NYAFF ’13: When a Wolf Falls in Love with a Sheep
far, American teens have largely been spared the joys of cram school. In Taiwan, they are a fact of life for those
facing the highly competitive university entrance tests. It does not leave students much time for
romance, but there just might be something cooking between two young back
office workers. Modern love is decidedly
confused in Hou Chi-jan’s When a Wolf
Falls in Love with a Sheep (trailer here), which screens today during the 2013 New York Asian Film Festival.
leaving a “back soon” sticky note on his sleeping forehead, Tung’s girlfriend
walked out of his life and has yet to return.
Maybe it was because he dressed too much like “Where’s Waldo.” Emerging
from a heartsick tailspin, the dopey kid takes a job at a copy shop in the Nanyang
cram school district, because he can do the work on autopilot and live in the
loft above the store. Making deliveries
to the Bisheng School, Tung meets the cute but artistically frustrated Yang,
who draws little sheep cartoons on the bottom of the school’s test papers. One day, he responds with his own big bad
wolf character and a doodle flirtation starts to blossom, much to the amusement
of the student body.
Wolf is compulsively
sweet, but it has tons more style than your average rom-com. Hou integrates little animated vignettes of
the sheep and wolf, as well as some completely fresh and original sight
gags. It sometimes feels a bit prone to
ADD, but Hou eventually loops every rangy subplot back into his main narrative
quite cleverly. Despite its frothy tone,
Wolf has some rather smart stuff to
it, particularly the manner it presents the pseudo-courtship between Tung and
Yang. It is a two-tiered relationship, playful
on paper but much more reserved in person, which really rings true.
Tung, Kai Ko is appropriately sad-eyed and sensitive, while Chien Man-shu gives
refreshing depth to the more philosophical Yang. Wolf is
also loaded with colorful supporting players, most notably including Lin
Ching-tai (the star of Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale), playing off his real life persona as a former
Presbyterian minister with his turn as a priest moonlighting as a noodle-cart
vendor, wisdom dispenser, and general jack-of-all-trades.
Energetic and winning, Wolf is the sort of rom-com where fate is not content to merely
take a hand, but will go so far as to smack characters alongside the head and
yell “go after her, you schmuck.” If that
is manipulative at times, Hou nicely compensates with the originality of his
execution. Highly recommended for anyone
who appreciates a good date movie, When a
Wolf Loves a Sheep screens today (7/6) and Tuesday afternoon (7/9) at the
Walter Reade Theater, as part of this year’s New York Asian Film Festival. Those who go should stay through the final
credits for several reasons, including the attendance of director and festival
special guest Hou Chi-jan.
Labels: NYAFF '13, Taiwanese Cinema