Review of “Drifting Flowers”

Drifting Flowers
is out Taiwanese director Zero Chou’s latest effort. Far different from the
sexy, tantalizing Spider Lilies, Drifting Flowers is a mood piece and a
simple take on the (ever-so-fashionable) multiple-thread storyline. The film
follows three branching storylines about lesbian characters, each examining a
different kind of love.

In the first segment, we follow young Meigo (Pai Chih-ying) and her 20-something sister, Ging (Serena Fang). Ging is blind and earns a living as a lounge
singer; Meigo follows her around to shows and falls asleep doing homework every
night. Everything is shaken up — albeit rather gently — when the handsome,
androgynous accordionist Diego (though everyone calls her Chalkie, played by Chao Yi-lan) comes along and accompanies Ging at her shows.

Meigo develops a massive crush on Chalkie, and Meigo becomes
incredible jealous when she realizes that Ging and Chalkie are more than
friends.

Serena Fang (left) with Chao Yi-lan

It’s interesting and important to note Ging’s role as her
sister’s guardian — and the pressure she faces from others in the community to
let Meigo live with a foster family. Meigo spends a great deal of time with a local
family, who would rather see the child grow up with them than Ging (and the
influence of her “lifestyle”).

The theme of familial/societal pressure rings throughout the
film and informs most of the characters’ motivations.

The middle storyline is the most melancholy, depicting Lily,
an aging Alzheimer’s patient (Lu Yi-ching) and
her “beard” husband Yen (Sam Wang), himself a gay man, who has returned after
years of neglect from his own cheating boyfriend. Lily regards Yen as “Ocean,”
her long-lost love — and often relapses into memories of their time together.

Emotionally broken and HIV positive, Yen has no desire to
stay with this old woman — or go on with life — but the pair eventually stumble
onto a way to take care of each other, and form a sort of friendship and love
that is rarely explored in film.

Lu Yi-ching

Finally, the third segment takes us into Chalkie’s past,
depicting a young woman who is uncomfortable with her body and her feelings
toward girls. She works at the family’s troupe (sort of like a mobile
performance group, with puppet shows, singing, etc.), and she bounces around
with a vibrant, adolescent energy, despite her gender-expression issues.

She eventually falls for the sexy singer at a rival troupe,
and begins to contemplate life on her own.

The film moves through these storylines with a very gentle,
moody rhythm, not unlike the “drifting flowers” of the title. Since its core
theme is the many permutations of love, and the film plays out with a dreamy,
languid pace, the entire affair feels a bit hazy and imprecise.

This is actually one of the movie’s greatest strengths, as
each scene hits the emotional high notes and captures quiet moments with equal
aplomb.

There are no real moments of “connection” among the threads,
aside from a few arty sequences depicting the various characters riding the
same train. The film begins and ends with these shots, and intermixed
throughout are scenes of the main characters rubbing elbows and staring off
into space within the car.

One wonders if this is a deeper metaphor, or simply a visual
transition from one tale to another.

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