Sunday, January 21, 2018

Slamdance ’18: Love After Time (short)

Taiwan is a democracy with the world’s fifteenth largest economy, but the UN and global diplomatic community wants to pretend it doesn’t exist. When nuclear disaster ravages the Other China, they just carry on ignoring, like business as usual. Radiation and isolation make things pretty dystopian, pretty quickly for the survivors, but life maybe has a way of hanging on in Henry Tsai Tsung-han’s short film Love After Time, which screens as part of the Anarchy shorts block at this year’s Slamdance Film Festival in Park City.

There is a new policy: only survivors with a clean health certificate are now eligible for emergency food relief. That does not sit well with the mystery woman. She sparks a riot and then shrewdly uses as a distraction to steal food. That doesn’t sit well with the officer overseeing the distribution. However, when he corners the thief in her makeshift shelter, he finds she has his number, in multiple ways. She happens to be surprisingly confident and seductive. She also realizes he is a mutant, just like her.

LAT might have the most bizarre sex scene you will see in Park City. Some survivors start growing organs in nontraditional places, if you get the picture. Eventually, we learn even the circumstances of reproduction have been affected. In some ways, LAT covers similar ground as Antonio Pandovan’s short film Eveless, but it has a more humanistic perspective. In fact, Tsai passes up many opportunities to gawk at the mutated deformities, preferring to focus on the evolving ways humans relate to each other—and whether such a term still applies to mutant survivors.

Nana Lee Chien-na also must be the spriteliest wasteland waif you will see in a month of apocalypses, but there is no denying her charisma. The Taiwanese pop idol-actress is an unusually big-name celebrity for a scruffy nuclear Armageddon short film, but good for her. Her courtship with Lee Hong-chi’s Army Officer is definitely intense and he looks pretty darned freaked and conflicted during the aftermath.

LAT directly addresses the question what does it mean to be human, which is a big theme for any film, of any length. Tsai creates a convincingly grubby dystopia that is worlds removed from his previous teen TV work. Highly recommended, Love After Time screens again tomorrow (1/22), along with Philippe McKie’s very cool Breaker, as part of the Anarchy shorts package at the 2018 Slamdance Film Festival.