Directed by: Tsai Ming-liang | 118 minutes | drama | Actors: Chen Chao-jung, Lee Kang-sheng, Yang Kuei-Mei, Lu Yi-Ching
The lonely soul and the big city. As a theme, this combination is probably timeless, but it flourished in the “modern” 20th century. From the paintings of Edward Hopper to the novels of Brett Easton Ellis, over and over again we discovered that the little man is no measure of the big city. Anesthesia from drink and drugs, suicide, senseless love, and all that from a social being’s fear of becoming isolated from his fellow man.
That this problem is not a typically Western phenomenon, we see in the Taiwanese drama “Vive l’amour” (irony is therefore not a typically Western phenomenon). In this slow 1994 drama film, we meet three young people in the big city of Taipei City. Mei works for a real estate agency, Hsiao-kang is a sales representative, Ah-jung is a street vendor of the semi-legal sort. When Mei and Ah-jung experience a one-night stand in a luxury apartment for sale, they do not realize that Hsiao-kang has taken temporary illegal residence in one of the bedrooms.
This nice premise will not get a narrative sequel. We follow the three characters as they do their job, stroll through the city and occasionally meet. They don’t get a real bond, they remain three lonely souls in a big city. Like a living Hopper painting.
“Vive l’amour” has plenty of qualities, but what the film doesn’t have are credible characters. They are normal, fairly social types, but they live their lives in complete isolation. Why don’t they have friends, don’t speak to relatives, not even vague acquaintances? We don’t know and we don’t believe it. Only Hsiao-kang may have a valid reason for its loneliness, the other two resemble aliens incapable of making real contact with Earthlings.
A shame, because this drama has plenty to offer. Even without a plot, the individual scenes are worthwhile and meaningful. Hsiao-kang as a spectator at a strange company workshop, Mei languishing in a bath, Ah-jung as a silent seducer. The silence is not limited to Ah-jung, the film has hardly any dialogue. The city sounds are loud and shrill, contrasting with the peaceful silence of the apartment. Also visually you can enjoy ‘Vive l’amour’, with a lot of beautiful finds, a lot of symbolism and a beautiful color palette. All that doesn’t make this Taiwanese drama the classic you were hoping for, but it’s definitely worth it.