San Fu Tian (Dog Days)Berlin Film Festival 2016
The protagonists of director Jordan Schiele’s feature-length debut are very hot and bothered. The heat of the summer is unrelenting, and the characters glisten with sweat. Lulu (Huang Lu) is particularly irritated when her boyfriend Bai Long (Tian Mu Chen) doesn’t pick her up after work. This turns to distress when she discovers that Bai Long has suddenly left town with their baby, and is refusing to tell her why. Her distress quickly consumes her to the point that she seeks help from Sunny (Luo Lanshan), Bai Long’s gay lover, to hunt down what was unceremoniously taken from her.
Schiele utilises a vast number of closeups and it works perfectly. The intimacy of the camera results in a rather speedy emotional connection with the twosome as they track down their man. The film is disarmingly matter-of-fact in many of its depictions. Lulu dances in a gentleman’s club (with adorable choreography), but this is not depicted as anything dark or dangerous, which is rather refreshing. Sunny transforms into an imposing drag queen who performs in a gay bar. Sunny’s vulnerability hides behind a wall when he’s in his female persona, and Lanshan plays this very well. Bai Long’s bisexuality is seen as entirely unremarkable, and is nothing more than an inconvenience for Lulu and Sunny via Bai Long’s cheating ways. Lu gives Lulu a resigned indignation when she’s forced to call upon her rival for help, and it’s quite marvellous.
There are well-constructed moments of discomfort, such as when Lulu briefly snatches an infant from its sleeping mother, largely just to hold a baby in her arms once again. The intensiveness of this forced surrogacy packs quite a wallop, although the consequences for her actions are practically non-existent. Dog Days is a naturalistic and rightfully subdued account of a harrowing event. The subjects behave in exactly the manner as one might expect, hampered by their circumstances, and the heat… always the heat.
San Fu Tian (Dog Days) does not have a UK release date yet.
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