Although the New Queer Cinema is only 25 years old today, Japan’s Toshio Mashimoto’s Funeral Parade of Roses (1969) spoke, though not as eloquently, about the queer subculture which would later shape Asia’s journey towards the true gay movement on Asian Cinema.
Quite officially, metaphors and polities aside, China’s The Wedding Banquet (Dir. Ang Lee) and Farewell My Concubine (Dir. Chen Kaige) spearheaded the movement in 1993, although these two films were still in the moulds of a heteronormative society.
In 1996, perhaps the first true gay film in Asia, East Palace West Palace (Zhang Yuan) captures the yearning and confusion of the times with unapologetic visuals and narrative, while subtly employing itself of the role of a social provocateur. Very much reminiscent of a Jean Genet classic, and very much welcomed so.
Wong Kar Wai’s Happy Together (1997) is provocative, intense, bittersweet, unforgettable, desensitized, stylized, poetic, but almost too distant and precarious to assume the benchmark.
Leesong Hee-il’s No Regret (2006), hailed South Korea’s first true gay romance, backpedaled a little bit but one ought to be in the cultural sphere to understand the implications these dramatizations are played out in real life. The ending makes it even more an afterthought, than it is a shot to stay faithful to guiding essentials.
Stanley Kwan’s Lan Yu (China, 2001) is almost perfect, almost there. The political backdrop is the lasting symbol of youthful rebellion (Tianenmen Square Riot). Confusion here and there. Denial and abandonment on the side. Then, finally it chose to crush your heart.