Monday, October 10, 2011

YOU ARE THE APPLE OF MY EYE - Lost Youth Revisited

YOU ARE THE APPLE OF MY EYE (romantic comedy)
Cast: Ko Chen-Tung, Michelle Chen, Steven Hao, Ao-Chuen, Tsai Chang-hsien and Wan-Wan
Director: Giddens Ko Ching Teng
Screenplay by Giddens Ko
Time: 105 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

The Ching-Cheng High gang, with Ko Chen-Teng and Michele Chen (3rd and 4th from left, respectively)

PREAMBLE: There has been a clamour for this Taiwanese coming-of-age film among Chinese youth in Malaysia ever since it opened at the Hong Kong Summer International Film Festival in August this year. Indeed, Giddens Ko Ching Teng's directorial debut is based on his semi-autobiographical novel, The Girl We Chased Together in Those Years (the Chinese title), which was a best-seller among online readers.

Needless to say, 'Apple' reigned at the Taiwan box office for over 40 days, landing at second place on the nation's chart of all-time box office hits. For viewers young and old, it is a nostalgia trip to their carefree school days when hormones rage and hope abounds.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT: The narration, by Ko Chen-Tung who plays Giddens (or Ching-Teng), starts off in 2005 when protagonist Ching-Teng is dressing up for a wedding. Next, it takes us back 10 years earlier (1995) to Ching-Teng's school days when he and his buddies, Boner (Yen Sheng-yu), Cock, Groin (Tsai Chang-hsien) and A-Ho (Steven Hao) are students of Ching-Cheng High, a backwater school in Changhua in central Taiwan.

All these boys admire ace student Shen Chia-Yi (Michelle Chen) and many of them even have a crush on her. However, Chia-Yi is closest to Ching-Teng because she has been instructed by a teacher to tutor Ching-Teng in his studies and help him stay out of trouble. The two gradually fall in love but have to separate when they go to college. Staying apart, the couple face many challenges and temptations which threaten to tear them from each other...

HITS & MISSES: The school pranks and events are seen from Ching-Teng's point-of-view and he pulls no punches to show us what it is like during those heady days. We see the boys masturbating, courting girls and handling heartbreak and separation. One college scene explains why the boys jerk off with their left hand while watching online porn - the right hand is needed to move the mouse. We see how the girls have to put up with these pranks and crass jokes and manage to hold their own.

The best part of Giddens' direction is that we can easily identify with the protagonist and the lead cast. In any co-ed class, there will always be a beautiful bookworm like Chia-Yi whom all the boys will admire and even try to court; and there will be the resident sex maniac, the fat slob, and other weirdos. All these characters are credibly developed although there are some sequences, like Ching-Teng going naked in his house, that are not satisfactorily explained.

And just as all the boys fall in love with Michele Chen's Chia-Yi, we too are charmed by her. Chen is such a natural that her Chia-Yi reminds us of the girl-next-door, captivating our hearts especially in the scene where she is summarily punished with the boys for being disrespectful of the teacher. This is one movie from which you will leave the cineplex with a smile on your face and feeling warm in your heart.

THE LOWDOWN: Here's one love story that's pleasing to the eye but will steal your heart away...


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