Rhydian Vaughan (left) and Chang Hsiao-chaun motor along in Girlfriend Boyfriend.
GIRLFRIEND BOYFRIEND (Yang Ya-Che). 106 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (August 3). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NNN
The ambitious, occasionally affecting Taiwanese love story Girlfriend Boyfriend is framed as a film about political rebellion. Opening with a scene involving two sisters spearheading a playground dress code protest, it aims to connect such grade school rabble-rousing to Taiwan's grander history of revolution and resistance.
After its tone-setting intro, the film snaps back 30 years, tracing a love triangle comprised of Mabel (Guey Lun-mei), Aaron (Rhydian Vaughan) and Liam (Chang Hsiao-chaun). It follows their relationship from their days as high schoolers printing leaflets through the 1990 Wild Lily Student sit-in and into adulthood, when their passions have cooled considerably. Yang does a fine job outlining the romantic currents coursing between the three, muddling the flows of desire as they fall in and out of love with one another. (A hallucinatory sex scene in which the three seem to copulate simultaneously is particularly intoxicating.)
The opportunistic use of politics is problematic, the Wild Lily rallies serving as little more than a romantic backdrop for a doomed love affair. The three principals give strong performances, especially given the complex emotional material and criss-crossing sexual allegiances. But the film is more an ode to lovesick rebels than to rebellion.