Exuberantly bizarre tale of adolescent sexual confusion traces the relationship of two girls through convoluted plot twists involving Siamese twins, incest, a double murder, necromancy and schizophrenia -- or, perhaps, these are just the overheated imaginings of puberty.

Exuberantly bizarre tale of adolescent sexual confusion traces the relationship of two girls through convoluted plot twists involving Siamese twins, incest, a double murder, necromancy and schizophrenia — or, perhaps, these are just the overheated imaginings of puberty. Throughout the wild ride that veers from teen comedy to melodrama to horror and back again, Macanese helmer Doug Chen maintains astonishing control over a grab-bag of digital trickery that mimes the girls’ volatile mood shifts. Winner of the Gold DV award at the Hong Kong fest, imaginative pic may click with adventuresome arthouse auds before scoring on cable.

The Gordian knot of a plot has Manman (Manman Lam) in love with her best girlfriend Moon (Moon Man), and the feeling seems mutual. Story unfolds exclusively from Manman’s perspective.

The girls live amid the lush island of Coloane, Macao, with Manman’s house a hefty stone’s throw away from Moon’s family store/home. The girls’ sexual attraction to each other, never really acted on, is complicated when Manman discovers, via a hidden camera planted in Moon’s room, that Moon may be male (oft-reprised clip shows a figure leaving Moon’s bed, opening the bathroom door and peeing standing up).

Manman’s feelings for Moon shift further when, following the murders of Moon’s parents, Moon’s twin brother materializes, further confusing the gender issue. At a drunken party celebrating the turning over of Macao to China, Manman declares her love for Moon, but her words are drowned out by exploding fireworks. She repeats her love twice, at the third declaration suddenly changing “I love you” to “I love your brother.”

Plot explanations, when they finally arrive, render the situation ever weirder, with stories of exposed brains, abandoned children, quasi-incest, gender-switching and conversations with frozen corpses.

One of these two girls is seriously disturbed, ostensibly Moon. But Moon’s story is recounted through Manman, whose entire life is ruled by her high school crush.

“Sin” is one of only two or three films to be shot in Macao, and the only one manned by a Macanese director. Chan seems to have packed a whole spectrum of cinematic traditions into 90 minutes. The various audio/visual elements of pic, rather than meshing to create a single emotional whole, work separately to layer and contrast different tones. Thus the narration, an external male voice that runs throughout the film, dispassionately recounts events and emotions equally.

Meanwhile, Chan’s camera fast-forwards, jump cuts, pixilates, blurs, overexposes, split-screens, monochromatizes, diagrams and chops up the image, going from hyper-subjective (Manman’s eyeglasses’ literally framing a shot) to hyper-objective (picture postcard collage of Melbourne) without skipping a beat.

The music (also by Chan) dramatically charts its own larger-than-life narrative, borrowing phrases from melodrama, horror, comedy and romance.

Love Is Not A Sin

Macao

Production

A Doug Chan Motion Pictures production. Produced, directed, written, edited by Doug Kin-Tak Chan.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Chan, Harrison Fung, Pang Chiang; music, Chan. Reviewed at New York Asian American Film Festival, June 21, 2003. (Also in Hong Kong Film Festival.) Running time: 83 MIN.

With

Moon Man, Manman Lam, Chaoebe Chao, Sheila Un, Cherry Vong. (Cantonese dialogue)
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