Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Spring Fever

This tale of gay men and their woes in China is courageous, but too self-consciously directed and lugubriously uninvolving.

Aug 6, 2010

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/147421-Spring_Fever_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

In Nanjing, a woman, Lin Xue (Jiang Jiaqi), who discovers that her husband, Wang Ping (Wu Wei), is having an affair with a man, Jiang Cheng (Qin Hao), hires detective Luo Haitao (Chen Sicheng) to track him. However, the affair exerts a certain undeniable fascination for Luo, who gets involved in a triangular love situation with his own girlfriend, Li Jing (Tan Zhuo) and Wang.

Spring Fever is obviously a serious, heartfelt project for director Lou Ye, his version of Jules and Jim, and one can appreciate his courage in presenting such a frank treatment of homosexuality in his country. You just wish it were more involving. Lou seems to be suffering from acute Wong Kar-Wai-tis, with his severely subjective storytelling, full of blatant cinematic trickery and calculated visuals. Wong’s films, while often obtuse, diffuse and rambling, nevertheless have certain poetic/visual rewards to sustain the viewer, but here Lou is no such artist. His use of the handheld camera is the most annoying of these devices—this may be the most needlessly migraine-inducing film ever. And, perhaps to add a sensual mystery to his endlessly morose characters, he has photographed them in such darkness that you often don’t know what the hell is going on or who is who. This is not only about the love that dare not speak its name—it doesn’t show its face either. (Curiously, the best-lit scenes are the ones of same-sex coupling, which are pretty blatant in the face of Chinese censorship and generate some momentary, if rather gratuitous, heat.)

In a supposed effort to focus squarely on his characters, Lou has largely rendered their setting as totally anonymous—you get no true feel of the historic city of Nanjing, the capital of China for six dynasties and, of course, where the Japanese went berserk in 1937. The overall tone, too, is relentlessly grim—to match the shadowy mise-en-scène. A few light moments are provided in a gay drag bar (where Jiang Cheng goes tranny), but, as in life the world over, if you’ve been to one, you’ve been to them all. The protagonists karaoke-sing various lugubrious songs and quote poetic passages from a 1920s book by Yu Dafu, to ever-diminishing effect.

The actors are all admirably committed. It’s just a shame one can’t feel more for them, not to mention see more of them.


Film Review: Spring Fever

This tale of gay men and their woes in China is courageous, but too self-consciously directed and lugubriously uninvolving.

Aug 6, 2010

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/147421-Spring_Fever_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

In Nanjing, a woman, Lin Xue (Jiang Jiaqi), who discovers that her husband, Wang Ping (Wu Wei), is having an affair with a man, Jiang Cheng (Qin Hao), hires detective Luo Haitao (Chen Sicheng) to track him. However, the affair exerts a certain undeniable fascination for Luo, who gets involved in a triangular love situation with his own girlfriend, Li Jing (Tan Zhuo) and Wang.

Spring Fever is obviously a serious, heartfelt project for director Lou Ye, his version of Jules and Jim, and one can appreciate his courage in presenting such a frank treatment of homosexuality in his country. You just wish it were more involving. Lou seems to be suffering from acute Wong Kar-Wai-tis, with his severely subjective storytelling, full of blatant cinematic trickery and calculated visuals. Wong’s films, while often obtuse, diffuse and rambling, nevertheless have certain poetic/visual rewards to sustain the viewer, but here Lou is no such artist. His use of the handheld camera is the most annoying of these devices—this may be the most needlessly migraine-inducing film ever. And, perhaps to add a sensual mystery to his endlessly morose characters, he has photographed them in such darkness that you often don’t know what the hell is going on or who is who. This is not only about the love that dare not speak its name—it doesn’t show its face either. (Curiously, the best-lit scenes are the ones of same-sex coupling, which are pretty blatant in the face of Chinese censorship and generate some momentary, if rather gratuitous, heat.)

In a supposed effort to focus squarely on his characters, Lou has largely rendered their setting as totally anonymous—you get no true feel of the historic city of Nanjing, the capital of China for six dynasties and, of course, where the Japanese went berserk in 1937. The overall tone, too, is relentlessly grim—to match the shadowy mise-en-scène. A few light moments are provided in a gay drag bar (where Jiang Cheng goes tranny), but, as in life the world over, if you’ve been to one, you’ve been to them all. The protagonists karaoke-sing various lugubrious songs and quote poetic passages from a 1920s book by Yu Dafu, to ever-diminishing effect.

The actors are all admirably committed. It’s just a shame one can’t feel more for them, not to mention see more of them.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Laggies
Film Review: Laggies

Disappointing comedic entry about a late-20s slacker who won’t grow up is writer/filmmaker Lynn Shelton’s first outing directing someone else’s material. Points here for strong cast and an occasional chuckle, but otherwise there’s just no point. More »

Rudderless
Film Review: Rudderless

Well-done indie drama about a lost-soul house painter reborn through rock ’n’ roll is a nice actor’s showcase for star Billy Crudup and an impressive directorial debut for actor William H. Macy. But in spite of some good work onscreen, both hero and story lack the edge and originality to carry this drama beyond respectability. More »

Camp X-Ray
Film Review: Camp X-Ray

Army guard and Guantanamo detainee form a grudging relationship in a thoughtful but far-fetched drama. More »

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
Film Review: The Tale of The Princess Kaguya

As charming as it is delicate, this unusually low-key, if a tad overlong, animated feature brings yet more prestige to the famed Ghibli output. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Fury Review
Film Review: Fury

American tanks fight superior German forces in the closing days of World War II. More »

Birdman
Film Review: Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Virtuosic camerawork and a stellar ensemble of actors more than make up for the occasional moment of portentous twaddle in Alejandro G. Iñárritu's latest—and maybe his best—film. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here