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HONG KONG — As nonsensical and tantalizing as its title, Chen Hung-I’s Honey Pu Pu is an extended experimental-film-cum-marathon-TVC/MTV that showers the audience with wall-to-wall and floor-to-floor images of intolerably ethereal beauty and precious little organic correlation. Its frail skein of a narrative circles around the mysterious trajectory of bees, extinction of the human race and the disappearances of loved ones and beloved objects. Cool, photogenic faces roam a dreamy urban landscape uttering philosophical gibberish.
It’s so thorough in its pretentiousness it’s beyond pretention.
The sweet smell of theatrical success will elude Honey Pu Pu but festivals and alternative cinemas targeting young, artsy students can offer it a small platform.
There’s no one lead character, but the one who sets off the story is Vicky (Tseng Pei-Yu), whose boyfriend Dog (Lee Ta-chi) disappeared without a trace. She becomes fixated on the fate of bees disoriented by mobile air waves. Through her chatroom community, she shares her anxieties with youngsters Cola (Chiu Shen-Yi), Money (Lin Chen-Shi) and Assassin (Lin Po-shen). To help Vicky trace Dog, they hook up with Playing (Hsieh Hsin-Ying), a siren-like girl who lures men into playing dangerous erotic or pre-school games.
Chen catches a heartbeat, a breath of the post-millennium generation through IT-related imagery and jargon, the freely associative thought-patterns in the pseudo-profound dialogue, his use of music (a blend of famous classic scores and ghostly electronic sounds) his fluid, shimmering images of Taipei, and the dance-like energy released his androgynous young cast. All his characters are haunted by dissolution of people, buildings, things around them. Their reaction is natural in such a rapidly changing age.
Chen, who made the stylish void of a movie Candy Rain surpassed himself with a sensuous, arcane and evocative (of what, one never fully grasps) tone poem. Although a mainstream audience may well make a beeline for the exit, the arty few who prefer the visual aspect of cinema can appreciate how every shot is so painstakingly devised, how complex are his textures.
If only Chen let his visually rich and dramatically impoverished world stay hermetically sealed. Yet, he nearly spoils everything with what he’s weakest at, namely plot, structure, continuity and characterization. The final scenes strain to offer multiple interpretations of Dog’s disappearance, even hinting at parallel universes. However, the more he struggles to convey reasons or meanings, the more he muddles and circumscribes the audience’s imagination. A love triangle that gradually emerges takes away the mystique in the characters’ dynamics and replaces it with a tedious youth romance formula.
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