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Eternal Summer


(from left to right) Joseph Chang, Kate Yeung, and Bryant Chang
Chinese: 盛夏光年  
Year: 2006  
Director: Leste Chen  
  Producer Leste Chen
  Writer: Hsu Cheng-Ping, Leste Chen, Wang Chi-Yao (original novel)
  Cast: Joseph Chang, Bryant Chang, Kate Yeung
  The Skinny: Leste Chen's gay-themed youth drama is a joy to watch, thanks to a beautiful production, sensitive direction, and fine acting. The actual material is quite compelling, though ultimately not very revealing. A triumph of mood and emotion, if not actual narrative.
   
Review
by Kozo:

Quality cinema seekers may want to carve time into their schedule for Eternal Summer, a Taiwanese youth drama from director Leste Chen (The Heirloom). Eternal Summer tells the story of Jonathan (Bryant Chang), a young man who finds himself in an enviable (or maybe not) romantic predicament. On one hand, he has pretty Hong Kong transplant Carrie (Kate Yeung) after him. The two share an idyllic day of hooky in the big city, after which they check into a love hotel and get down to the deed. No dice: Jonathan calls it off. It turns out that he's in love with someone else, namely best friend Shane (Joseph Chang), a roguish and handsome troublemaker who excels at basketball and seems to be headed nowhere in particular after high school.

Carrie gets Jonathan's problem, and even accepts it. However, that isn't going to solve things for these conflicted youth. The revelation of Jonathan's sexuality creates tension between Carrie and Jonathan. Shane is oblivious to his old friend's issues, though, and initially has a contentious relationship with Carrie. However, their unspoken conflict over Jonathan gives way to their own relationship, which they embark on without Jonathan's knowledge. The days and nights pass, but the big secret of Jonathan's desires hangs over the three friends like the proverbial other shoe. Eventually, something has to give, and when it does, lives will surely change.

Or will they? As the title of the film may suggest, the emotions of youth are not things that can easily pass, regardless of honesty or sudden revelations. Not everything can reach absolute closure, and Eternal Summer seems to echo that theme by concentrating on its suffering, silent mood and the all-consuming emotions of its characters. Jonathan is consumed day-to-day by his passion for his pal, and Bryant Chang reveals his character's inner torture with a pitch-perfect emotional performance. Joseph Chang is even better, giving Shane undeniable charisma and a substantial inner core. The success of Eternal Summer hinges largely on his character's hidden emotions, and Joseph Chang handles the role with a charismatic, soulful energy. As the unfortunate third party of the trio, Kate Yeung is expressive and believable in a more limited and subtle role than either of her two male costars.

More than anything, Eternal Summer looks and sounds beautiful. The widescreen compositions, pleasing colors, and evocative soundtrack suit the film's gentle tone, giving the film an almost tangible warmth. Director Leste Chen's direction is evenly-paced and sensitive, giving each detail purpose and emotional weight. The film is almost too sure-handed, never presenting its emotions or situations as sensational or overblown, but also never digging too far beneath the surface. Eternal Summer is a film about mood and atmosphere, revealing and reveling in each character's feelings such that they permeate each frame like invisible emotion-saturated fog. The negative that exists in this is that there's little complexity attained, as the film reveals itself in an entirely too efficient manner. We get the emotions and we get the situations, and that feeling continues for a good ninety minutes. When the film's more sensational moments do occur, they're hardly unexpected.

Also, the film attempts to tie things up with multiple "secrets" that get revealed at the film's climax. The characters bare their souls to each other, but it's questionable if the secrets connect with the audience as much as they do with the characters. For most of Eternal Summer, the details suitably reveal the characters' emotions, but when it's time for them to own up verbally, the connection doesn't seem to gel. It's almost like the film is unable to commit - a valid theme where these characters are concerned, but hardly a satisfying, or even fitting one considering the narrative's final dramatic push. When Eternal Summer finally ends, it seems that we're not left with an answer, but simply an abundance of affecting emotion delivered through gorgeous performance, image, and sound. From a cinema standpoint, that's still an accomplishment. The whole may not be satisfying or entirely substantial, but if one were to judge solely by details, then Eternal Summer is a lovely little achievement. (Kozo 2006)

   
    DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Edko Films, Ltd.
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Mandarin Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
English and Chinese subtitles
 

   
 
 
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