Chinese/ GLBT/ Lesbian
OFFICIAL SELECTION, BERLIN FILM FESTIVAL! Teddy Award-winning Director Zero Chou (Spider Lilies) weaves three poetic tales as the lesbians in Drifting Flowers seek their true identity. In the first story, Jing, a blind singer, falls in love with her band s tomboy accordionist Diego. In another time and place, Lily, an elderly lesbian and Yen, her gay friend, create an unexpected bond and support each other in a time of crisis. Finally, we see Diego before she joined the band, when as a teenager she came to grips with her identity.
I saw this film in my library selection and thought the cover was gorgeous. I’m also partial to Asian films and it’s rare to see an Asian film with a GLBT subject matter so it was a no-brainer to watch it. This film was touching, sad, poignant and different at the same time.
The first story is about a blind woman, Jing, who is taking care of her much younger sister. She’s a lounge singer and social services is trying to take her sister away since she keeps late hours and the sister is not doing well at school. Diego, a butch lesbian who plays the accordion as background music for Jing, befriends both of them and tries to help. Jing accepts Diego’s friendship and her love without question.
What’s interesting in that story is that the younger sister, who is about 9 years old, becomes jealous and sullen whenever Diego shows Jing any attention since she’s fallen in love with Diego. And when she sees them kissing, she starts acting out and treats her sister cruelly. In the end, social services convince Jing that her sister is better off with a foster family who love her and can give her good home.
There’s no love story here, just a brief glimpse into Diego and Jing’s long relationship as the ending of the story shows the younger sister coming back as a young woman. What’s compelling about it is how it’s told and the interesting relationship dynamics between the characters.
The second story was a bit confusing and vague, but just as compelling. Lily, a lesbian in love with a woman, Ocean, and a gay guy who is with Yen, get married to please her family. Both couples are shown in the beginning at the wedding laughing at having fooled the families. In the next scene it’s maybe 40 years later and Lily has dementia. Yen has gotten AIDS and his partner started cheating on him, blowing him off. Having nowhere to go, he looks for Lily. Lily, in her mind, thinks Yen is Ocean and keeps telling him to stop dressing like a butch because it will cause problems for them. So she dresses him like a woman all the time. It’s clear that she has lost Ocean for whatever reason and the grief has destroyed her.
This story was rather sad but very human. Two lost souls trying to find some peace in familiarity with each other. It’s never really clear though what happened to Ocean, nor why Yen would tolerate being dressed as a woman since he gets beat up in the park for doing so. However, it’s still an interesting story on the realities of being a gay person in that culture.
In the third story we get the back story of Diego. She’s a young girl, maybe in her teens, and she’s clearly butch. Her mother tries to get her to wear a bra but she feels disgusted at having breasts and binds them with a long strip of cloth.
Her family is in the “puppet” business, a sort of carnival side show thing and they are having a hard time keeping it going. The competition has started pimping his daughter out as a sort of semi stripper/singer in place of the puppets to get business and it works. Diego goes to the show to watch and is called on stage to tease/seduce, the girl thinking Diego is a young man. The two girls hit it off, and the other girl sexual seduces an inexperienced Diego.
I liked this story mainly because Diego’s butch-ness is accepted to some degree by her mother and family. Her mother tells the brother that she would like to give some of the family money to Diego since she realizes that Diego isn’t “normal” and will never find a husband to take care of her.
What was also good in this story is the Diego herself accepts who she is. She doesn’t care what people think and she doesn’t try to conform. This gave her an air of innocence as she goes about just being who she is.
All in all it’s a good film. There’s not a lot of actual relationship development; it’s really just snippets in characters’ lives. But it does give an interesting and maybe realistic portrayal of a gay person’s life in China.
Heat Level- 0- a few kissing scenes