The second film in my second match-up in the second round of the 90s Far East Bracket is all about the ennui baby!
Written By: Ming-liang Tsai
Directed By: Ming-liang Tsai
I had an entire review for Qing Shao Nian Nuo Zha written up and ready to go. But I struggled mightily writing it and as the review neared its finality I wasn’t happy with how it read. Nope, I wasn’t happy at all, because to be frank the putrid mess I was going to pass off as a review didn’t do a lick of justice to Qing Shao Nian Nuo Zha. I owe those of you who read my little scribbles the best I have to offer, I owe you my thoughts on the movie in question, not some jumbled mess masquerading as a review. That’s why I’m apologizing for a review that no one will ever read, it’s also more evidence that I’m an anal retentive fuck who could not exist in the world that Ming-liang Tsai shows us in Qing Shao Nian Nuo Zha.
There isn’t anything concrete story wise for me to hang my hat on in Qing Shao Nian Nuo Zha. Wait, I take that back, there are most definitely a couple of things I can hang my hat on. First, and foremost, Street Fighter II Turbo rocks your socks off and I am honor bound to be fond of any movie that features it in all its arcade glory more than a few times. Secondly, but not least importantly, arcades are the shit man, I have loved arcades from the first moment I stepped foot in the old Enchanted Castle Arcade and Playland in Lombard, Illinois. I love the experience, and while Qing Shao Nian Nuo Zha isn’t about the experience of playing 2D fighters in the arcade, it does feature lots of arcade action, and you best bet your penny loafers that I loved the hell out of that.
Okay, onto the actual movie, the word that I most want to use to describe Qing Shao Nian Nuo Zha is ethereal. I know I have used this sort of word correlation a few times in my reviews, but it is my honest reaction to Qing Shao Nian Nuo Zha. It’s a very dream like film, but it’s not the sort of interpretive reality as a mystery film that I usually apply the dreamlike moniker to. No, Qing Shao Nian Nuo Zha is grounded in reality, but it moves so languidly and so comfortably from moment to moment that it comes across as some sort of dream state. There’s no need to rush, Tsai can spend as much time as he wants exploring a room. He can zero in on a character and allow us to see every nook and cranny of that character exposed for the camera, and it just feels right. Maybe the ethereal word correlation isn’t as good of a way to describe Qing Shao Nian Nuo Zha as the well worn sweater analogy is. As I slipped into watching Qing Shao Nian Nuo Zha I felt the film wrapping around my shoulders like a well worn sweater, a Chicago Cubs sweater in this case, on a cold January day in my home area of Chicago.
This sense of belonging with the movie is made even more awesome if you realize that Qing Shao Nian Nuo Zha is a film about a group of kids who I can not relate to. Say what you want about me and my very laid back nature, but it could never be said that I let life happen around me. But, the kids in Qing Shao Nian Nuo Zha, Ah Tze and Hsiao-Kang specifically, aren’t interested in reacting to life or interacting with those around them. They don’t want to do anything, they want the water to build up and for the drain to magically make it all go away. It’s a beautiful thing to watch, very poetic, especially when you get to the few moments where they do care. The movie comes to a head in those moments, and again, it just feels right. Things go wrong, actions don’t work out, attempts to actually be involved result in life not going the way these kids think it should go. As I said, it’s all very beautiful to watch, and yet it’s painful at the same time, it’s a heck of a film basically.
Qing Shao Nian Nuo Zha isn’t without its flaws, there are some odd flourishes that Tsai employs with his camera that I don’t feel quite fit with the rest of the picture. But, those are minor grievances in an otherwise intriguing picture. I mean, why should I give a shit about Asian teen ennui? But Tsai makes me care, he makes me want to see what happens to these kids, if they ever will care, what the true depth of their indifference will end up being, and so on. Tsai draws me in and I enjoy the ride, it’s all about kids keying motorcycles and jumping for joy in their underwear, and I love it.