Reflections

A busted-up relationship has rarely felt dreamier and as cool as the one at the heart of Yao Hung-I's gorgeous debut, "Reflections." Clearly influenced by Hou Hsiao-hsien, Yao nevertheless makes this very much his own film. Pic is sympathetic to the challenges experienced by a lesbian couple in Taipei without getting too political.

With:
With: Nikki Shie, Tuan Chun-hao, Lu Yi-ching, Jack Kao.

A busted-up relationship has rarely felt dreamier and as cool as the one at the heart of Yao Hung-I’s gorgeous debut, “Reflections.” Clearly influenced by Hou Hsiao-hsien (Yao has been a part of Hou’s production team for 12 years, much of that time as assistant director), Yao nevertheless makes this very much his own film. Pic is sympathetic to the challenges experienced by a young lesbian couple in contempo Taipei without getting too political. Mood, image and sound dominate, and should pay off handsomely with fest dates and theatrical sales in upscale markets.

Hou mavens will recognize echoes from the final piece of his 2005 triptych film, “Three Times,” touching on a mod woman’s rocky relationship with a guy and another woman who has the hots for her. A similar dynamic operates here, but with a markedly different emphasis. In this case, the femmes (Oy Gin’s rock singer Jin and Nikki Shie’s vulnerable Mi) are a couple, but feeling tension as a man (Tuan Chun-hao’s Hao) enters the picture.

Jin and Mi have fallen into a state of casual affection for each other; they’ve agreed to break off their relationship if either of them falls in love with a guy. This sets the conditions for Hao, returning from military service, who already knows Mi. In one of the script’s subtle hints at the social forces opposed to gays and lesbians, a fortune teller has informed Mi she will fall for a man

Jin, a tad gloomy and being ignored by her mother (Lu Yi-ching), who has a new man in her life, seems like she could be a suicide in the making. But Yao cleverly slides away from this dead-end option toward a denouement that hints at a tentatively more hopeful future.

Title indicates the story is from Jin’s memory — a favorite Hou device — but the pic is never as explicit about this as Hou’s elaborate memory movies can be. The director also revisits characters from Hou’s “Millennium Mambo” with Hao and Jack Kao’s character, Jack.

The sustained mood of “Reflections” is drenched in loss, a twinge of regret at what might have been. But there’s also a sensory-filling acceptance of the beauty and unpredictability of everyday life. With Yao as his own lenser, it’s impossible to distinguish where direction ends and the rapturously color-saturated cinematography begins.

Oy and Shie first seem like callow urban youth, but develop real humanity in front of the lens by the reel. Lin Giong’s music and a mind-altering roster of pop songs create an ideal sonic background.

Reflections

Taiwan

Production: A 3 H Prods. and Sinomovie presentation. (International sales: 3 H Prods., Taiwan.) Produced by Hou Hsiao-hsien. Executive producer, Liao Ching-song. Directed, written by Yao Hung-I.

Crew: Camera (color), Yao; editor, Liao Ching-song; music, Lin Giong; production designers, Hwang Wern-ying, Wung Kuei-pang; sound (Dolby Digital), Tu Duu-Chih, Tan Xian-chu. Reviewed at Buenos Aires Independent Film Festival, April 13, 2006. (Also in Nantes, Rotterdam film festivals.) Running time: 86 MIN.

With: With: Nikki Shie, Tuan Chun-hao, Lu Yi-ching, Jack Kao.

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