Zero Chou's "Drifting Flowers" moseys along for 90-odd minutes, seemingly content to speak largely in lesbian cliches.

The most professionally made of her three features to date, but with a weakly developed script that doesn’t plumb far beneath the surface, Zero Chou’s “Drifting Flowers” moseys along for 90-odd minutes, seemingly content to speak largely in lesbian cliches. Centered on a group of femmes struggling with that old gay chestnut, “identity,” three-parter looks to bounce into fest dates on the strength of Chou’s niche success with last year’s “Spider Lilies.” But without Asian name leads behaving transgressively onscreen this time, theatrical biz looks far weaker, especially in the East.

Longest seg, at 40 minutes, is the opener, “May,” in which the titular 8-year-old (Pai Chih-ying) strikes up a friendship with Diego (Chao Yi-lan), a female accordionist who accompanies May’s blind sister Jing (Serena Fang) in a lounge bar act. When she sees the butch Diego and the delicate Jing canoodling one night, May is struck with jealousy.

Diego’s backstory is told in the final seg, which is the best-shaped dramatically of the three but hardly original in content, as the teenage rebel secretly binds her breasts in sexual confusion and finally yields to the advances of a pretty showgirl one rainy night.

Newcomer Chao, still an acting student at Taipei National U., is the pic’s most striking presence, and makes Diego a believable character. However, the young thesp gets little orginal to work with beyond lesbian wish-fulfilment cliches. A whole movie could have been made about Diego, but helmer Chou gives the impression that, though she’s found her technical footing with this movie, she’s still not up to the job as a writer.

Between these two episodes comes the unconnected “Lily,” with the titular Alzheimer’s victim (Tsai Ming-liang vet Lu Yi-ching) rebonding with a childhood friend, Yen (Sam Wang), who’s now HIV-positive and a cross-dresser. Thirty-minute seg has a mellow appeal but plays like an interruption.

Transfer from HD to 35mm is very good, with generally rich and evocative colors. Original Chinese title means “The Drifting Waves of Youth.”

Drifting Flowers

Taiwan

Production

An Atom Cinema release of a the 3rd Vision production. (International sales: Three Dots Entertainment, Taipei.) Produced by Sunny Chen, Liu Yun-hou. Executive producer, Liu Yun-hou. Directed, written by Zero Chou.

Crew

Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Hoho Liu; editors, Chou, Hoho Liu; music, Christine Hsu; art director, Wang Zheng-kai; costume designer, You Wen-wen; sound, Tu Duu-chih, Kuo Li-chi. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Panorama), Feb. 12, 2008. Running time: 96 MIN.

With

Lu Yi-ching, Serena Fang, Chao Yi-lan, Sam Wang, Herb Hsu, Pai Chih-ying, Lin Yo-lo, Yu An-shun, Ma Yi-hang. (Hokkien, Mandarin dialogue)

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