Review of “The Panda Candy”


It’s certainly
nice to see a real-life director change his opinions on lesbianism (in a
positive way) after making a piece of art – but what exactly does that say
about his inspiration to make the film in the first place?

Still, it’s not
as if the movie presents the heterosexual relationships with any sort of
reverence. Both of our leads are presented as carefree young people who choose
to date many other carefree young people. It has to be said that Chun’s (male)
suitors are a great deal stranger than any of Taki’s, so perhaps Lei is
implicitly saying that lesbians have better romantic prospects.

In fact, most
of Chun’s dates come across as either mildly insane or catatonic.

One young guy
(Mr. Wu, the only male character with a name) chases poor Chun around a park,
proclaiming himself a great poet. He spouts inane verses and laughs with
booming, maniacal volume, and he claims to love her until she refuses to
perform a sexual act on him. Another young man that she meets is utterly
silent. He comes home with Chun, watches her undress, and falls asleep next to

Still another
of Chun’s lovers is a geeky wannabe skateboarder, who asks her to his apartment
and sort of awkwardly wrestles with her. He later accompanies her to a karaoke
booth, where he proceeds to sing pop songs (Michael Jackson’s “Billy Jean”
among them) loudly while Chun and the recently discovered Taki cuddle in the
corner and giggle.

Chun does have
one male friend who seems normal enough, a soulful guy with a goatee and
ponytail that makes observations about the state of the world and the nature of
desire as they cavort around Tiananmen square.
He’s easily the most likeable of the male characters in the movie, but he
doesn’t compare to the cute baby butches that Taki brings home.

Some of the
vignettes are fascinating, others are fun, and yet plenty more are absolutely
maddening, even for audiences who appreciate non-narrative work. There are
simply too many scenes that just go nowhere, and do nothing to further explore
the core theme. It’s fine to drift – but I wish more of these scenes were
drifting tangibly towards something.

While there is
very little outright discussion (serious or otherwise), and a large portion of
the proceedings seem awkward, the movie is oddly compelling.

It brings to
mind the similarly divisive (and frank)
sex-and-rock flick Nine Songs, though
it’s nowhere near as graphic. Actually, for a film that’s as obsessed with sex
as Panda Candy, the love scenes are
quite tame. The most risqué sequence in the entire film involves Taki and her
stuffed panda – which is just as bizarre and potentially disturbing as it

cinematography ranges from stunning to rather mundane — much like the scenery
itself. There are a number of phenomenal montage sequences that depict Taki’s
travels. Landscapes and cityscapes whiz by as she looks out her window, her
little panda toy in tow. The visuals are beautifully complemented by a
fantastic soundtrack – which really makes this a trip worth taking. Scored by
New Pants and ME: MO, with several brief shots of New Pants concert footage,
the soundscape is as dreamy and meandering as the storyline.

It’s a bit like
a very long, very ponderous music video — with social commentary peering over
the edges.

If you’re
looking for something very different, you may enjoy Panda Candy. It’s odd and “out there,” but it does have a sort of
accidental depth and a few delicious scenes. If you have no interest in
watching a grown woman get down with her own “panda candy,” however, you’d best steer clear.

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