Love Go Go is the second feature film by the Taiwanese director Chen Yu-hsun, whose first directorial effort, Tropical Fish, was highly enjoyable and very promising. Love Go Go seems, at first, a lighter film. Tropical Fish, while also funny, seemed more socially conscious, whereas the main themes in Love Go Go are a set of three related stories of love, with characters who initially seem more like caricatures in their awkward desperation, and yet who become, almost unexpectedly, strangely humanised by film's end.
*** Discussion of major plot points follows ***
The first story treats of Ah Sheng, a baker. Memories from childhood are set off by Li Hua, who begins making daily purchases there. Although fond friends in childhood, she does not recognise him, especially since he is usually in the kitchen, shyly avoiding her gaze. Alone in his room, looking through school yearbooks, he recalls their times together in the past, especially their chats about the 'invisible man'. He also takes to inventing nice cakes with messages on them, such as 'I'm Sorry', or 'I Love You', which she likes. During this time, Ah Sheng is also practising songs for a TV talent show, much to the chagrin of those he lives with, Fat Sis (who appears in the second story), and a songwriter. Finally, he decides to write her a note, reminding her of their connection.
The second story follows Fat Sis, who finds a pager and eventually calls the owner, who talks to her of the suicidal desperation only love is capable of saving him from. He wants them to meet face to face, but feeling shy about her weight, she asks for a month's postponement. They compromise on two weeks, which she spends desperately trying to trim her weight. When they finally meet, he (who is no oil painting either), merely demands his pager back and walks off. What does one do when so brutally dumped? The third story follows Li Hua (who appeared as the object of the baker's affection in the first story), who is working as a hairdresser, and a salesman of personal security devices (Ah Sung), who is only intending to hawk his goods, but finds himself shampooed and in the chair before having a chance to start. This is a good piece of timing, it turns out, for while he is having his hair cut, another woman enters, who is the wife of Li Hua's boyfriend. She receives a call (which would seem to be from him), after which the woman attacks her with a pair of scissors. Ah Sung saves the day with a gas gun. Li Hua flees from the room, and Ah Sung follows her up to the roof where he tries to console her. They seem to spend the afternoon up there and she even completes his haircut. When Li Hua goes home and turns on the TV, she sees Ah Sheng singing a love song for her, leading to one of my favourite parts of the movie: her tears in the midst of repressed mirth caused by his karaoke act.
*** Discussion of major plot points finished ***
The three stories seem straightforward, even light, but turn out subverting themselves continually. There is plenty to laugh at (the director's experience in writing sit-coms is evident), but these are counterbalanced by unexpected glances of touching humanity, connections between characters that suddenly spring up, loaded with sentimental meaning. The actors contribute most ably in this process of humanisation, though apparently almost all of them (except for Tang Na, playing Li Hua) were new to acting. They, in turn, are assisted by an eclectic array of photographic and editing techniques, such as time-lapse photography, musical interludes, dream sequences, whatever was required either to entertain or to add further insight into the lives of the protagonists, who, having started out as ridiculous cut-outs, end the film as the most likable collection of lead characters I've seen in a film for a long time.
This was an engaging mixture of comedy and drama, certainly a change from the older generation directors from Taiwan such as Edward Yang, Hou Hsiao Hsien or Tsai Mingliang. In fact, I would be rather tempted to write an article comparing this film to 'Terrorizers', for example. There is enough to compare and contrast between these two films. In sum, this was fun, but far from empty froth. I don't know if the Chen Yu-hsun has made a third film, but if so, I am certainly keen to see it.