Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

08 February 2006

Love in Thoughts / Saving Face

Love in Thoughts is a story that seems really familiar. It's a German film by Achim von Borries whose German title is just a tad longer: Was Nützt die Liebe in Gedanken or "What's the use of love in thoughts?". The German title with its extra three words conveys a pointlessness that I guess I should have been hip to before I stuck this movie at the top of my Netflix queue.

I rented it for a couple of reasons. It stars Daniel Brühl, also of Goodbye, Lenin!, Ladies in Lavender., The Edukators, and the soon-to-be-released and recently-Oscar-nominated Joyeux Noël. The other reason was that the synopsis on Netflix was phrased in such a way to infer that the two main male characters were in the throes of a deep, juvenile, erotic passion. Well, they both are: the catch is that it isn't with one another. Paul (Brühl) is in love with Hilde (Anna Maria Mühe) and Hilde's brother Günther (August Diehl) is in love with Hilde's lover Hans (Thure Lindhardt). Most of the threesome stuff with Hilde, Hans and Günther is kind of fun, and this is the main problem: the threesome isn't the focus at all. Instead, the focus is Brühl's brooding, moping main character and his unsuccessful efforts to get Hilde to love him. He's the movie star and he has to be the focus of the film, but unfortunately he's not nearly as interesting as the desperate Günther, who is driven nearly mad by his sister's lover. The movie mopes around a lot and feels very sorry for all of its youthful characters, but I didn't really ever get into it, and we all know that I am not particularly partial to the trials and tribulations of melodramatic, disaffected youths with death wishes. I almost liked it. In the end, though, I think Love in Thoughts falls on the other side of the line: I disliked it more than I liked it.

Saving Face, a romantic comedy by American Alice Wu, is in Mandarin and English both (it echoes Ang Lee's The Wedding Banquet in more ways than this). It's about a young, lesbian, Chinese-American doctor named Wil whose forty-eight year old mother moves in with her. The comedy is this: mom is pregnant (!) and she won't tell who the father is. Wil is also trying to work on her budding relationship with a ballet dancer, trying to find her mom a husband so that she'll move out and her dad will let her back into the family. She's also keeping her lesbianism a secret from her grandparents and her mother's also having a difficult time accepting her for who she is. The movie never really sees homosexuality in the Asian community as more than comic fodder, which, frankly, was a bit of a relief. It wasn't a movie that wanted to preach at me, but, instead, simply presented a series of farcical situations and let the characters collide. Saving Face is great fun and very charming. More than that, it's a movie about loving who you want to love and not allowing your parents dictate what you should do. Joan Chen plays Wil's mother. I feel like I haven't seen her in, like, forever: seriously, like since The Last Emperor. Where has she been? She's beautiful and vulnerable and very funny. Someone give this woman a job!

P.S. I decided to make Brownies Cockaigne tonight. Yum.

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