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Bishonen / Mei Shao Nian Zhi Lian (1998)  

Director: Yonfan (Yeung Fan)
Cast: Stephen Fung, Daniel Wu, Jason Tsang, Terence Yin, Shu Qi

Gay Hong Kong is not an overly popular subject matter, though there have been several films that tackle the subject. Jet is a male prostitute, seemingly laissez faire about his existence, giving the appearance of coolness as he goes about his business, until he meets Sam, a handsome stranger he follows and later befriends. He soon finds himself falling for him, but Sam's past and his attitude to his sexuality casts a shadow on any potential happiness in the future. Several stories run throughout the film, and all leading back to Sam. Handsome faces parade through Jet's and Sam's lives - in fact, "bishonen" or "pretty boys" is a Japanese word for gay men.

"Bishonen" portrays a seedy side of the gay Hong Kong subculture, filled with male prostitutes being cruised by older men, casual sex, gay cops posing for nude photography, and gay pop stars (gee, what a novelty). I doubt this film will earn any political correctness awards, though Yong Fan doesn't seem to have any negativity towards the subject material, or indeed, any feeling whatsoever. However, the love story and human frailty of the characters, especially Sam's tortured existence, is handled adequately.

Structurally though, the film is a bit uneven. It has trouble making up its mind between Jet and Sam as its main focus, awkwardly shifting between their two lives. Daniel Wu (Sam) gives a decent enough performance (considering his total lack of ability to speak Cantonese, a slight irritation in the film), though you have to wonder a bit about the motivation for his character that seems to deliberately pull the plug on every potential relationship he comes across. There also doesn't seem any point for a female narration to the movie, which I thought at first was the voice of Sam's lesbian friend (Su Qi), but could be unconnected for all I know. Its easy enough to produce a film which deals with loneliness, alienation and angst from a subject matter that lends itself easily to such an interpretation - so I guess the only need to watch this film is for the bishonen that populate it.

Eden Law

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