Eye For Film >> Movies >> I Love (1999) Film Review
Reviewed by: Nicola Osborne
The concept of following a young art student completing military service before art school obviously appealed to filmmaker Yang Li-chou and thus I Love (080) was born. However, he doubtless had no idea how challenging a subject he had chosen.
Zheng is a young soldier and talented artist with a scholarship for art school. To pay his way through college he agrees to do the several years national service required of him. We are barely beginning to look at his life in the army, the corruptness of which is hinted at through a call to a military complaints hotline (ah, the joys of technology!), when Zheng begins to get lonely.
At first he does as suggested by his colleagues, calling the 080 toll-free numbers that are used most frequently for mail order companies, complaints lines etc. but which are informally used - especially by soldiers training offshore - as informal chat or sex lines.
Here Zheng strikes up a friendship of sorts with "Candy" but, despite his interest in her and his keenness to meet up, is soon unimpressed by her indifference towards him. As soon as he gets some time off training he is unhappy enough to take the drastic action of deserting... thus the documentary begins to get unique as Zheng becomes an increasingly interesting and reluctant subject
From the outset the director is far more involved than one would expect from this type of film. He seems to have little focus, very much letting things develop as he goes along. The documentary reveals Zheng in a decidedly unusual and unorthodox fashion, with the subject himself borrowing Li-chou's camera every so often. As Zheng tires of being constantly followed, Li-chou loses patience and the pair seem to reach an impasse which is only temporarily overcome by Zheng's own efforts to talk about his family.
Many a documentary rule is broken and it does not flow easily. To some extent this is compensated for by insights into the men both in front of and behind the camera. Bizarrely Zheng's filming is often more revealing than Li-chou's, though it is Li-shou's editing of this footage with Zheng's own dialogue from interview that makes for the best parts of the film.
Strange but intriguing adventures with the documentary format.Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001