A Summer's Tail



Pusan International Film Festival

BUSAN, South Korea -- Cheng Wen-tang's coming-of-age drama "A Summer's Tail" revisits many of the themes of the director's earlier work ("Blue Cha-Cha," "Somewhere Over the Dreamland") in many of the same ways. Panoramic shots of characters doing very little are used to examine the lives and futures of four high school kids as they flail about trying to define themselves near the end of a school year.

The film has a moderate chance at art house success in Asia, where the leads, though relatively unknown, are compelling enough to draw the same audiences that embraced "All About Lily Chou-Chou." Outside of Asia, the film is sure to garner festival interest, but any kind of theatrical release seems unlikely.

"Tail" focuses on four friends, each an outsider in his or her own way, as they navigate the waters of impending adulthood. Would-be rock star Yvette (ENNO) has been forced to drop out of school because of a congenital heart disorder. Her slightly dependent best friend Wendy (Lin Han) feels disconnected from most others and clings to Yvette. Jimmy (Chang Jui-chia) is expelled when his love for his teacher, Miss Xiu (Ko Huan-ju), takes an extreme turn. Akira (Dean Fujioka) is a Japanese exchange student obsessed with soccer and not much else.

The four idle away afternoons in Taiwan's open fields reading, studying, singing and playing pickup soccer until a tragedy involving a neighborhood boy, Willy (Chou Chih-chieh), jars them all into mature reality.

"Tail" treads the same ground as "Eternal Summer" and "Blue Gate Crossing," and its downbeat, quietly contemplative tone is quickly becoming the mark of Taiwanese teen drama. The young cast does a reasonably good job of relaying the awkwardness of that age, as well as the often unabashed joy that comes with it, though Wendy and Akira a somewhat underwritten. ENNO in particular turns in a strong performance as a young woman who understands mortality and chooses to live as full a life as she can regardless.

The "tail" of the title refers to Yvette's cat, Summer, and is an indicator of the randomness (as opposed to metaphysicality) of the film. Although Cheng nicely evokes a sense of time and place -- he and co-writers ENNO and Jan Fu-wha dispense with backstories as a rule and keep the focus on the present -- the film ultimately feels as aimless as the friends' sunny afternoons.

A Green Light Film Ltd./Sundream Motion Pictures production
Director: Cheng Wen-tang
Screenwriters: ENNO, Jan Fu-wha, Cheng Wen-tang
Producer: Cheng Wen-tang
Executive producer: Siuming Tsui
Director of photography: Lin Cheng-ying
Production designer: Tai Te-wei
Music: Aphasia
Costume designer: Meng Tsung
Editor: Lei Chen-ching
Yvette: ENNO
Wendy: Lin Han
Akira: Dean Fujioka
Jimmy: Chang Jui-chia
Miss Xiu: Ko Huan-ju
Willy: Chou Chih-chieh
Mom: Lu Yi-ching
Boss: Yao Hsiao-min

Running time -- 99 minutes
No MPAA rating