Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Girlfriend Boyfriend (China Lion 2012)

Reviewed by Anthony Servante 


Girlfriend Boyfriend (Gf*Bf)

This is one of those import arthouse movies that’ll disappear from the small screens as soon as the next blockbuster nudges it from the theaters. I was lucky enough to catch it before it vanished into DVD heaven.

MOVIE INFO
Writer/director Ya-Che Yang’s new film, Girlfriend Boyfriend (Gf*Bf) arrived August 3, 2012. When three rebellious students leave their hometown to pursue their lifelong dreams in the big city, their relationships start to face the pressures of real life as the 1980s Taiwanese sociopolitical reformation movement unfolds in the background.

It is the story of a 30 year long friendship. She likes him; he likes her; he likes him. Which explains the trailer slogan: “Everyone should have two lovers; one that you love & one that loves you.” It means a lot more after watching the film.

Aaron, Liam and Mabel 

It is 1985. Taiwan is on the verge of social upheaval. Students are rebelling against the martial law in effect. Riot police are poised to attack. And love is blossoming. But not your ordinary love triangle. Mabel loves Liam, Aaron loves Mabel, and Liam loves Aaron. But the conflict of choosing partners is the least of their troubles. Adulthood keeps catching up with them. Partnerships and dealing with them become a root metaphor, especially since we see a straight relationship grow alongside a gay one. In the background we witness the early days of gays in the closet and as we near the unfolding democratic burgeoning of Taiwan, we later see a gay wedding. Things have come a long way. I was surprised by the audience’s loud almost unanimous gasp when Liam kisses a gay undercover cop. One couple walked out. They must have thought both guys were going to vie for the attentions of the one girl. Didn’t they read the movie logo?

POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT IN THE NEXT PARAGRAPH. BUT AS I POINT OUT, THE INTRODUCTION TO THE MOVIE GIVES AWAY THIS “PLOT TWIST”. ANYWAY, I GOT TO PUT THIS HERE JUST BECAUSE. READ ON AT YOUR OWN PERIL.


Of course, this romantic bisexual conflict is mimetic of the growing pains Taiwan is going through, but the director wants to add another layer of metaphoric meaning in case we didn’t get the love triangle symbol. Mabel is pregnant and has a tumor. And she must choose to abort the baby and save herself or have the baby and die. We know what she chooses because the movie begins with her twins staging a protest at their school, just as their mother did in the early years of the upheaval. Since the movie is one long flashback, the flash forward at the beginning serves as a spoiler rather than a “shocker”. But getting to the ending of the flashbacks was half the fun. The plot unfolds forward as the flashbacks reveal how our three friends, especially the pregnant Mabel and the gay Liam, make major decisions about their place in the morphing social stratum.

Conflicting emotions

All things are sorted out after the audience’s emotions are wrung several times in crescendo fashion. There are a few points where the director seems lost and tries to make a Woody Allen type dramedy, but thank goodness these moments are few. I was taken enough with the movie to write about it and to recommend it, not only for its story, but for its history lesson on Taiwan and one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard since The Driver music score. First thing I did when I got home was to try to locate the music CD, but no luck. So go see it, so that it makes some money and the CD makes it to the shelves. Or go see it because it’s a fine way to spend a few hours. Either way, fans of romantic dramas verging on the soap operatic, go see it.

Official Gf*Bf Trailer 


(youtube video from Gf*Bf soundtrack)



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