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  Publicity Stills of "Spider Lilies"
(Courtesy from Encore Films)

In Mandarin with English and Chinese Subtitles
Director: Zero Chou
Cast: Isabella Leong, Rainie Yang, Shen Jian-Hung, Kris Shie, Shih Yuen-Chieh
RunTime: 1 hr 34 mins
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films and Encore Films
Rating: R21 (Some Homosexual Content)

Official Website: www.encorefilms.com/spiderlilies

Opening Day: 14 June 2007




Takeko keeps a framed design of the spider lily flower on the wall of her tattoo parlor. The design was literally cut from the flesh of her father, after he was crushed to death in an earthquake. The image of the spider lily tattoo is the last cohesive memory of Takeko's traumatized brother, Ching, who is no longer able to recognize anyone, including his sister. Takeko has the same tattoo of the poisonous flower on her body in the hope of helping Ching remember and bridging the gap between them.

Webcam girl Jade visits Takeko's tattoo parlor, looking for sexy decoration to excite her clientele. Entranced by the tattoo of the spider lily on the wall, Jade gives Takeko her business card and invites her to visit her on her website where she professes her love for the tattoo artist. Finally, jade asks Takeko to give her the same spider lily tattoo to bring her closer to the object of her desire.

Movie Review:

For some reason, there are more gay films out there compared to lesbian ones.

And in recent memory, we recall a number of kissing scenes (between its female characters) in Stephen Daldry’s theatrical release of The Hours (2002) landing on the editing room floor here.

So when we knew that Taiwanese cutie pie Rainie Yang and Macau-born exotic beauty Isabella Leong are teaming up for an uncut version of a lesbian-themed movie, how can any hot-blooded male reviewer resist the chance to experience their sizzling chemistry on the big screen?

Yang plays an Internet web-cam girl (of all occupations, the filmmakers had to choose something this titillating) who leads a somewhat unfulfilled life by teasing men online. Leong plays a tattoo artist who has a traumatic past. The two girls’ lives cross when they meet at the tattoo parlor, and things take on a new course.

There is nothing much to complain about the acting from the two leads here. It is a spot-on decision by choosing Yang to play a seductive cutie-pie - the pop singer is not given the title “Cutie Ruler” for nothing. The 23-year-old has come a long way since her supporting role as a bakery shop employee in the 2001 hit TV series Meteor Garden starring the pretty Taiwanese boy-band F4.

Then we have Leong who has impressed us with her moving performance in Pang Ho-Cheung’s award-winning Isabella (2006). Here, the 28-year-old starlet plays her character with conviction and sincerity, making another milestone in her acting career.

The titular spider lilies are flowers which symbolize pathways to hell, and the memory-losing poison of the flowers anchors the film’s central theme of memories and what vulnerable human beings make of them.

Taiwanese lesbian director Zero Chou explores the subject matter of love and loss with a certain lyrical delicacy that art film fans will adore. Her understated approach at tackling the universal topic will make you think about the last time you felt the true emotion of love.

In fact, this idea is explored so well that it won Chou the Teddy Award at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival.

However, the film does attempt to tackle too many stories at one go, making them feel somewhat patchy. There is the story between the two girls, there is the story between Yang and a shy policeman, there is the story between Leong and her sick brother, there is the story of a pseudo-macho gangster who seeks solace by having countless tattoos, and a whole lot of other flashback sequences which may leave the impatient viewer cold.

But Chou also knows how to please her audience in this accessible 94-minute picture. Her previous work Splendid Float (2004) was a colorful film about a group of drag queen performers, and she puts that visual flair into her latest work. The attention to details and colors is superbly intricate, with the best parts of the movie being the flashback scenes shot in the countryside.

Those looking for some kinky action may be disappointed here, because there aren’t much of the girls to peek at. Given its R21 rating and “some homosexual content” consumer advice, the naughtier viewers may not find what they are looking for.

What they will find, instead, is a touching story about, as cliché as it is: love and memories.

Movie Rating:

(An expressively delicate portrayal of affection and memories that reminds you of the times you truly fell in love)

Review by John Li

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