Miao Miao -- Film Review

BOTTOM LINE: Above-average pseudo coming-of-age drama that doesn't try to be too fancy.

Pusan International Film Festival
A Window on Asian Cinema

More Pusan festival reviews

The adolescent Taiwanese love triangle is becoming as much a staple of Asian cinema as the hard-done-by migrant worker in China. In the same vein as "Eternal Summer," "A Summer's Tail" and "Blue Gate Crossing" comes "Miao Miao," the first feature by director Cheng Hsiao-Tse and a film that focuses less on the dynamic among the three as it does on the two young women as they navigate the pitfalls of oncoming adulthood.

Any distributor that opted to pick up the aforementioned films will take an interest in "Miao Miao," which should do respectable business in Taiwan. Because the film is technically and narratively polished, limited release in the rest of Asia is a definite possibility, and international festival play is a given.

Ai (Sandrine Pinna), a bored high school girl, reaches out to Shih Miao (Ke Jia Yan), a Taiwan-born Japanese exchange student who transfers into her school. Their friendship is initially based on curiosity but takes a turn for the genuine as Ai and Shih Miao come to realize they share many of the same fears, hopes and frustrations. The relationship is strained, naturally, when Shih Miao develops an infatuation with a taciturn record shop owner, Chen Fei (Fan Chih Wei). Chen Fei is possessed of his own romantic demons in the form of Bei, a former bandmate and lover. Unaware of this past, Shih Miao enlists Ai's help in winning his affections; Ai's jealousy springs from her belief that she's losing her one source of personal inspiration.

Even peppered with the cliches common to Taiwanese youth film (mistaken sexual identity again), "Miao Miao" manages to make a fairly strong statement for the sisterhood, and there's a wise and naturalistic rapport between Ke and Pinna that brings an element of realism to the film.

They are totally believable as flailing teens trying to comprehend unfamiliar, occasionally ugly but ultimately rewarding emotions. Whether producer-director Stanley Kwan ("Lan Yu") and Jet Tone's boss Wong Kar Wai had any influence on the efficiency of the plot and the dearth of needless abstraction (admittedly not a hallmark of Wong's own films) is difficult to determine, but clearly the spirits of the two helped more than hindered.

Cast: Ke Jia Yan, Sandrine Pinna, Fan Chih Wei.
Director: Cheng Hsiao-Tse.
Screenwriters: Tsai Yi-fen, Cheng Hsiao-Tse.
Producer: Stanley Kwan.
Director of photography: Kwan Pun Leung.
Production designer: Chan Ka Ki.
Music: Li Shih-Yun.
Editor: William Chang Suk-ping.
Sales agent: Block 2 Distribution.
No rating, 84 minutes.
production: BLK2 Pictures, JA Media, Logo, Jet Tone Films.