An unconventional love affair between two women, a web-cam performer and a tattoo-artist, is the focus of attention in Taiwanese lesbian director Zero Chou's critically acclaimed Spider Lilies (2007). Blending folklore with ultra-chic tunes pic effectively addresses a myriad of dilemmas modern societies are plagued with.
Jade (Rainie Yang) is a frivolous web-cam girl who decoys men willing to pay for a bit of nudity. Takeko (Isabella Leong), a tattoo-artist with a motley crew of clients, has an enormous yellow spider lily tattooed on her arm.
When Jade enters Takeko's studio she is immediately captivated by her spider lily. She is ready to pay and have the same tattoo on her body. But Takeko isn't willing to have Jade as a customer. She points to a large yellow lily, placed in an elegant holder, and explains that it is a source of bad luck. Misinterpreting Takeko's hesitance and suspecting that she might be one of her web subscribers, when in fact the person Jade has in mind is an undercover cop, the tattoo enthusiast spurs a chain of dramatic events.
Perhaps more realistic than Pawel Pawlikowski's My Summer of Love (2004) but not as stylish and edgy as Lisa Cholodenko's High Art (1998) Chou's film feels more of a personal reflection on a past experience rather than a general summation of lesbianism. In fact, it takes a while before all of the flashbacks from Jade's childhood years, Takeko's indecisiveness to befriend Jade, and the undercover cop's forays into cyberspace are linked together. For a substantial period of time it feels as if the sense of chaos permeating the first half of the film will remain intact until the very end. All of this leads me to believe that there is much more under the surface of this story, meant to remain visible only to those this film was dedicated to.
Stylistically however Spider Lilies is anything but a mystery. It is lush, intense, and expertly put-together film often evoking visual parallels with the work of Hou Hsiao-Hsien and Wong Kar-Wai. Colors are especially important often attributing a great deal to the emotional turmoil the main protagonists undergo. A great deal of emphasis is also granted to silence - Jade and Takeko's most emotional encounters are precisely in silent scenes where the camera acts simply as an observer.
How well Spider Lilies will resonate with you however depends largely on your ability to see through much of what this film is comprised of. I suspect that the emotional connection between Jade and Takeko, two obviously polarized protagonists, will be a difficult read for some. The feelings running through the two girls often appear fueled by their inability to fit, with some sort of harmony I suppose, into the modern world they belong to. They also only appear in control and act as if their lives aren't manipulated by external factors yet in the grand scheme of things I felt that it was emptiness and inability to detach reality from past memories that brought them together rather instead of genuine interest each other's personalities.
Winner of the Teddy Award for Best Feature Film at the Berlin International Festival in 2007.
How Does the DVD Look?
I was only provided with a screener for this film, not a finished product, and unfortunately am not able to comment on the actual quality of the presentation. The back cover for Spider Lilies indicates that the print is enhanced for widescreen TVs yet what I have in my hands isn't. It is letterboxed, fuzzy-looking, and quite frankly of extremely low quality. Therefore, I am unable to grade this disc.
How Does the DVD Sound?
Same description goes for the audio presentation.
The back cover for this DVD indicates deleted scenes, cast and crew filmographies, featurette: The making of Spider Lilies, and a trailer. None of these were present on my screener.
A complex and sensual film about two girls in love with each other Spider Lilies could prove rather challenging for those who misinterpret its seemingly chaotic narrative. If read carefully however the story is rewarding, beautiful to behold. With this in mind I am sorry that I could not comment on the technical presentation. If Wolfe Video submit a final version of the DVD I will surely update the review.