Hsiao Wenhua, MFA, Graduate Institute of Theatre Arts and Playwriting, Taipei National University of the Arts
The song “Love’s Lonely Flower” (1952), with lyrics by Zhou Tianwang and music by Yang Sanlang, is about a young woman who is waiting for her lover on the bank of a lotus pond. Later, Pai Hsien-yung’s short story of the same name appeared in the collection Taipei People. In 1985 Lin Qingjie directed a film version of Pai’s “Love’s Lonely Flower,” and in 2005 director Cao Ruiyuan not only remade the film but turned the story into a sixteen-part television serial as well. The ninety-minute motion picture distilled the tale’s powerful emotional content, while the longer serial was noted for its meticulous characterization.
The short story “Love’s Lonely Flower” portrays the once peerlessly talented Yunfeng, a dancehall hostess who leaves postwar Shanghai and resettles in Taiwan, where she has no choice but to work in a nightclub. There she meets the luckless Juanjuan, and the two become fast friends, depending on each other for emotional support. In the end, however, Juanjuan destroys herself over a man, a fate much like that of Wubao, a woman Yunfeng befriended in her Shanghai days. Working from this basic plot, the film and serial expand the action from Taipei to Shanghai, flashing back to a time before the Nationalist government relocated to Taiwan, fleshing out the story of three women – Yunfeng, Juanjuan, and Wubao.
In the film version, Yunfeng is lauded as the queen of dance hostesses at The Paramount, a renowned Shanghai nightclub. Yunfeng chances to meet the helpless Wubao, and begins looking after the young woman. Witty and adorable, Wubao gives the jaded Yunfeng – who has seen through human nature in her long career in Shanghai’s world of pleasure – emotional sustenance. Although Wubao has fallen in love with Taiwanese musician Lin Sanlang, she declines Lin’s request that she return with him to Taiwan, choosing instead to remain with Yunfeng, who purchased her freedom from a brothel owner. After the war Yunfeng comes to Taiwan, where she presents Lin Sanlang with an urn containing the ashes of Wubao, who perished in the chaos of war. In Taiwan Yunfeng continues to earn her living in a nightclub, where patrons have jokingly dubbed her “Commander-in-Chief.” One day, because of the song “Love’s Lonely Flower,” Yunfeng takes notice of frail and wan Juanjuan, and tenderly takes the younger woman under her wing. Little does Yunfeng know that Juanjuan is involved with underworld boss Ke Laoxiong and addicted to drugs. Unable to bear Ke’s mistreatment any longer, Juanjuan kills the gangster with a clothes iron and is committed to a mental institution.
“Love’s Lonely Flower” depicts human frailty and the fate’s violence in even greater detail than Pai Hsien-jung’s “Walking in the Garden, Waking from a Dream,” another short story about lesbian love. Cao Ruiyuan’s interpretation juxtaposes past and present eras, expressing women’s warm and tender affection for and understanding of each other. Although their happiness is short-lived, Yunfeng, Wubao, and Juanjuan – three rootless and abased women – manage to find moments of light in the darkness of their lives, showing the positive, caring side of humanity.
|Related Literary Themes：||LGBT Literature|