The first film in my fifth match-up in the first round of the 90s Far East Bracket is stoic, but pretty darn awesome!
Written By: Eddie Ling-Ching Fong
Directed By: Clara Law
I’ve written in the past about how what I write about a film has a lot to do with my lasting reaction to the film. Some movies seep into my skin right away, others leave me very cold as to what to say. Then there are the films that vex me, the films that challenge me in a way, the films that need to ruminate in my brain for some time before I can form my thoughts into a cohesive entity. Qiu Yue is such a film, after it ended I found myself staring at a near blank notepad trying to somehow assess what I had just seen. It took a bit, but the more I thought about Qiu Yue the more concrete my thoughts on the film became in my mind.
Qiu Yue has a surface level, and that surface level is rather easy to figure out. This is a coming of age film, as much as I may dislike that term, and Qiu Yue does have all the trappings of your usual coming of age story. Wai explores life around her and appears to learn as she does so, not changing persay, but adapting to the new experiences that life throws at her. Tokio meanwhile operates as the alluring adult, the charming older man who may or may not be present to steer Wai down the wrong path.
The above being said, Qiu Yue isn’t about its surface level at all, and if you think it is then I can only surmise that you missed a good chunk of the film. Take Tokio for instance, while on the surface he is presented as the classic older man character, he is in fact a man struggling with the life he leads and searching for anything to fill the void he feels. Nothing in Qiu Yue is quite what it appears to be, and the key to this comes down to the style Clara Law uses to shoot the picture.
Going into Qiu Yue I had no idea who Clara Law was or what type of director she would end up being. I don’t want to label or identify her with any other directors, that would shortchange her own work, but she does remind me of many minimalist directors I am fond of. On the surface level I spoke of earlier, almost nothing happens. Wai and Tokio meet each other, do some stuff together and interact with a few other people, but that’s all. The action takes place on that level below the surface, and it takes place in what isn’t being said or what isn’t being shown. Law loves long, silent takes, she is clearly a fan of allowing time for scenes/moments to linger in the mind of the viewer.
I found myself thinking a lot during Qiu Yue, why this choice was made, why did this character do this, etc.. There were a few moments that didn’t work for me, but even in those moments I found myself thinking about the reasons behind those moments. What I most took away from Qiu Yue were those quiet moments. The contrast that Law succeeded in crafting between her Hong Kong and the Hong Kong of most cinema, as well as the ideas about youth and adulthood that Qiu Yue pushed forward and asked the viewer to contemplate. I didn’t know what to expect going into Qiu Yue, but I left satisfied and challenged, and looking forward to seeing more from Mrs. Law.