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Yu Kan-Ping
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Ah Qing, a young homosexual teenager in Taipei, driven out by his father, finds refuge among the community of homosexual sex workers who frequent Taipei's New Park at night. He is given shelter and protection by Mr. Yang, an older homosexual businessman, and Aunt Man, Mr. Yang's straight female companion. After some difficult emotional experiences involving Wang Kui-long, another, much richer, young homosexual, who wants to pay for Ah Qing's education in the U.S., Ah Qing's new protectors eventually persuade Ah Qing to return home and help bring about a reconciliation with his estranged father.

GE Yunjiao (University College London/Shanghai)


This film was made only 5 years after HIV/AIDS was first discovered in the U.S. and 1 year before the lifting of Taiwan's 40-year Martial Law. Adapted from Pai Hsien-yung's 1983 classic modernist novel of the same title, generally known in English as Crystal Boys, this was the first film made in any Chinese-speaking territory to deal explicitly with homosexuality and the homosexual community. After the lifting of Martial Law, the subsequent democratisation of Taiwanese politics and the decriminalisation of homosexuality, with the subsequent flourishing of gay culture in Taiwan, the novel was re-adapted as a highly successful TV drama series, while a second film version has also been made.

The Taipei New Park plays an important role in the film, creating an implicit association between sexual and gender minorities and Taiwan's ethnic minorities. On the one hand, New Park has long had an important symbolic value for Taiwan's homosexual community as a landmark venue for male homosexual encounters, the 'unspeakable crime' (as Pai Hsien-yung describes it) flowing clandestinely behind the morally conventional facade of Taiwanese society in the 1960s and '70s. On the other hand, it is also a politically sensitive place both for the Guomindang and for local Taiwanese, as it witnessed the notorious '2/28' incident with the KMT's bloody massacre of hundreds of local inhabitants and the start of the 'White Terror' in 1947. Consequently, from Pai's novel to Yu's film version, and despite the KMT's attempts to sanitise it, New Park has been characterised as a 'painful kingdom' without 'bright days', and its 'unruly rabble of citizens' as an 'unspeakable minority' which includes both homosexuals and marginalised local Taiwanese inhabitants.

GE Yunjiao (University College London/Shanghai)


Ah Qing is a high school teenager growing up with his father in a conservative single=parent family in Taipei in the 1960s, perfectly 'normal' except for his clandestine homosexuality which he strives to keep secret. However, one night he is caught having sex with a man in the school laboratory, and is consequently excluded both from school and family. Wandering about homeless and destitute, he joins a community of gay boys in Taipei New Park who are under the protection of Mr. Yang ('Mom Yang'), a wealthy older homosexual businessman, and is then offered shelter by 'Aunt' Man, an elderly 'straight' lady who is a dear friend of Mr. Yang's. These people form a family-like grouping and give each other mutual support and material aid. One evening, Ah Qing meets Wang Kui-long, a much richer young homsexual who had also been a member of the New Park community 10 years before and who had murdered his gay lover, Ah Feng, out of jealousy and frustration. Wang notices Ah Qing immediately as he looks rather like Ah Feng, while Ah Qing also feels an ill-fated attraction to Wang. But when Ah Qing confesses his feelings, Wang asks him to be his platonic 'brother' instead, as he has apparently learnt from his tragic love experience with Ah Feng that same-sex relationships never work out and will only end up hurting everyone. Ah Qing is intelligent and sensitive and Wang wants to pay for his education in America, but Ah Qing is reluctant to accept his offer and thus become financially dependent on him. Eventually, Mr. Yang and Aunt Man, acting as intermediaries, persuade Ah Qing's father to accept his son's homosexuality, and then convince Ah Qing to return home and be reconciled with his father. Meanwhile, with much fanfare, Mr. Wang has opened a new, up-market, club and restaurant in Taipei, and employs many of the New Park gay boys in his new business venture.

GE Yunjiao (University College London/Shanghai)


As well as combining elements of a number of different genres, including Chinese/Taiwanese family drama, social drama and historical/political allegory, the film aalso employs a variety of cinematic registers and shooting styles, ranging from quasi-documentary social realism to melodrama, symbolic allegory and even psycho-drama. The film is also characterised by dramatic contrasts between the relative openness and 'natural' lighting of the daytime scenes, and the extremes of light and shade and almost morbid psychological intensity and claustrophobia of many of the night scenes, even those which take place outdoors in the Taipei New Park. The group scenes in Mr. Yang and Aunt Man's houses and towards the end of the film in Mr. Yang's new club-restaurant, with their predominant use of medium shots and medium lighting levels, constitute an intermediate level between the naturalistic style of the daytime scenes and the dramatic intensity of the night scenes.

Dr. Michael CLARK (University College London)

  • How does the film portray homosexuality, male friendship and father-son relationships during the Taiwanese Martial Law era?
  • How does the film 'queer' traditional Confucian family values and relationships?
  • What symbolic significance do rain and birds have in the film?
  • How does the director balance comedy and tragedy in the film? What outcomes does it lead to?
  • What kinds of compromise has the director had to make with:-(a) the censorship under Martial Law; (b) the commercial need to sell the film to conservatively-minded Taiwanese audiences?
  • How do you interpret the ending of the film?