Dan Tangmo , Film Critic
Vive l’Amour (1994) is director Cai Mingliang’s second film after Rebels of a Neon God. Set in 1990s Taiwan, the film won the Golden Lion (best picture) award at the Venice Film Festival.
Vive l’Amour presents Cai Minglian’s singular view of urban life. The story’s protagonists are three young people, two men and one woman, who are trying survive in modern Taipei. Meimei, the woman, is a real estate agent; Xiao Kang sells slots in columbaria, where remains are interred; and A-rong makes his living as a street vendor. In other words, all three are speculators. The film begins with Xiao Kang stealing into an apartment after finding a key that has been left in the lock. The three urban singles then go on to interact in what seems to be a game of hide-and-seek in the empty apartment, which is up for sale.
Cai Mingliang’s Taipei is cold and alienating, a world of dry and desiccated materialism. As the three young people struggle to make a living in the heartless metropolis, they are also striving to find the possibility of love. In the final scene – the film’s best-known segment – Meimei weeps for nearly six minutes; thus, the title Vive l’Amour (“long live love”) seems to be an ironic play on words. In Vive l’Amour Cai establishes his personal cinematic style: barren sets, such as the pale white interior of the apartment and a public park overgrown with weeds, lack of an accompanying soundtrack, natural lighting, and long shots are all marks of the director’s filmic aesthetic.
Homosexual desires, especially portrayals of sexual desire between two males, were only hinted at in Rebels of a Neon God, but such longings are at the heart of Vive l’Amour. Xiao Kang, who identifies as female, has attempted suicide; his interactions with A-rong provide rare warm moments in the film’s cold atmosphere of alienation. Set against depictions of casual heterosexual couplings and a harsh, materialistic environment, unattainable gay desires are the film’s only source of romance. Cai Mingliang’s presentation of homosexuality, in addition to being an expression of his personal ideals, is also an artistic breakthrough.
Vive l’Amour depicts fin de siècle Taipei’s decadent barrenness, pointing out the complex conflicts that arise between materialism, sexual desire, the soul, and the emotions; the film also indicates the impossibility of finding a balance between the pursuit of money and the search for love. Cai Mingliang’s social observations seem to be a prophecy of sorts, foretelling the materialistic direction Taipei has taken in the twenty-first century.
|Related Literary Themes：||LGBT Literature|