As if materializing out of thin air, one day I just
bumped into Tsang and Wan's first-time, self-directed semi-anthology film
Lover's Discourse. Motivated only by the beautiful poster art and a
somewhat vague screenshot, I sat down to ready to be surprised. And
surprised I was, as the film turned out to be a charming yet effectively
honest tale of romance that transcends the genre's endearing and
feel-good image and puts up a worthwhile fight with its final segment.
I say semi-anthology because even though the film is clearly divided into
four separate shorts, they do connect to form one overarching storyline.
Only the second short seems disconnect from the other three, but I
probably just missed a simple connection somewhere. At first I was
somewhat disappointed to find out that the film was cut up like this, as
it was quite difficult to let go of the characters of the first short,
but Tsang and Wan justify their choice with their fourth and final short
and afterwards I wouldn't have wanted it any other way.
Lover's Discourse takes a flying start with Hidden Love, where two
childhood friends meet up after work for a friendly drink. Both are in a
relationship, but not too happy about how things are working out.
Karena Lam and Eason Chen have a lot of chemistry going on between them,
the tepid pace of the short and the small yet charming details that
betray their feelings towards each other are a joy to behold. One thing
that's immediately clear is Tsang and Wan's exquisite feel for the
visuals, the soundtrack is nice enough though somewhat poppy in places.
And even though the short doesn't feature a true happy ending, it does
leave you with a warm and contented feeling.
Secret Crush is the second short, also the most light-hearted one of the
bunch. It follows Gigi, a young girl working at a laundry shop who's
rapidly developing a crush for one of her daily customers. She hardly
dares to look him in the eye, but rigorously searches his clothes for
clues about the boys character. With the little information she has she
construct several elaborate, far-out and genuinely funny fantasies.
Interesting detail here is that the boy in her fantasies is always
portrayed by a puppet, which is somewhat made clear during the final
scene as Gigi is clearly more in love with the idea of romance instead
of the boy himself.
With One-sided Love the anthology takes a more dramatic turn. One-sided
Love superficially ties in with the fourth short (at that time still
unclear) and plays like a memory of Paul's childhood days. When Paul
encounters Sam by chance he recalls falling in love with Sam's mother as
a young boy. At that time Paul found out that Sam's father was cheating
on his mom and Paul saw his opportunity clear to try and separate the
two of them. But Paul is clearly unaware of the commitment and love
between two people who've been together for almost a lifetime. One-sided
Love may be quite bitter and dramatic, it still shows us one or two
essential things about love.
The final short (Bitter Love) proves to be the key to unlocking the
film's true brilliance. One day Paul gets a message from an unknown
women (Kay), claiming Paul's girlfriend is cheating him with Kay's
boyfriend. Somewhat reluctant Paul decides to find out if there's any
truth to this claim. Careful viewers will probably see it coming, but
it's not so much the twist that stuns but the way Tsang and Wan allow
the viewer to see one event from two different sides without judging any
of the parties involved. By detaching both stories from each other the
viewer is allowed to feel for both sides, resulting in a much more
powerful (and admittedly somewhat confusing) experience. It does leave
you a little down, so those of you expecting a feel-good ending should
be warned, but the finale really becomes all the more powerful because
Visually Lover's Discourse is a stunning film, the soundtrack is solid
but not too spectacular and the acting is all-round impressive. In the
end though it's the overarching vision of this film that makes it stand
out from its peers, turning it into a beautiful yet somewhat painful
romantic story. Unless you're dead set against watching any romantic
films, consider this a clear and strong recommendation.
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