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November 07, 2013

Starz Denver Film Festival 2013 - Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?

Will-You-Still-Love-Me-Tomorrow.jpg

Ming tian ji de ai shang wo
Arvin Chen - 2013
Film Movement

What I like best about Arvin Chen's film is that it plays almost like a classic Hollywood movie. Sheila O'Malley compared Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow to George Cukor, but I think Vincent Minnelli is a closer approximation. As far as I'm concerned, this could well be the best film at this year's festival. One of the things I also like is that Chen understands how messy relationships really can be.

Through running into an old friend, Stephen, at the engagement party of his sister, Weichung finds old feelings rekindled. Married for nine years, Weichung thinks of himself as straight, as he puts it to Stephen, he's not hiding anything. An optometrist, Weichung's eyes are open when younger flight attendant, Thomas comes for glasses. One evening, just as the store is too close, Thomas shows up to pick up his new glasses. Weichung briefly imagines himself kissing Thomas. In the meantime, Weichung's wife, Feng, is anxious to have a second child before it is too late for her, and Weichung's sister, Mandy, walks away from her fiance, dreading a lifetime of routine sparked by the pair's visit to a supermarket.

The title comes from an evening's celebration hosted by Feng's former supervisor. A night of Japanese food with too much sake and beer is followed by karaoke. Feng drunkenly sings, in English, the song that inspired the title. The small stage suddenly lights up to something from a show set, with Feng still singing, and her co-workers performing as backup singers. Unlike too many films that use song titles as a shortcut due to their familiarity, the musical question is on the mind of the film's main characters. Even Feichung wavers, acknowledging his attraction to Thomas, but at the same time still sincere in his commitment to Feng, and genuinely loving his role as a father.

There is a surprise in seeing Richie Ren as Feichung. Better known to western viewers for his work with Johnny To, most lately Life without Principle, Ren appears here often like a deer caught in the headlights, rather than a man of action. Throughout the film, Ren's character of Feichung seems constantly surprised by life. Mavis Tan, as Feng, is a pop singer turned actress, explaining why her seemingly amateurish karaoke could quickly turn into a more polished performance.

This is a very smart film, where Chen has affection for all of his characters, including Mandy's well meaning but socially awkward fiance. In his director's statement, Chen discusses the inspiration for his story. Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? has its moments that might be considered fantasy. This is not Taiwanese GLBT cinema in the way one can consider the films of Zero Chou, some of the work of Tsai Ming-liang, or the utopian Formula 17. I would hope that the American born and educated Chen gets his shot in Hollywood. Without giving too much away, the film ends with a wedding celebration that is ultimately heartbreaking in its honesty.

Posted by peter at November 7, 2013 07:55 AM