Giddens Ko's <i>You Are the Apple of My Eye</i>
Giddens Ko's You Are the Apple of My Eye

Do youngsters take love too seriously? Do adults not? One can’t help but ask these questions after seeing You Are the Apple of My Eye and Red Vacance, Black Wedding, two selections from this year’s New York Asian Film Festival.  In all three films—three, because Red Vacance, Black Wedding is actually comprised of two short films—love is desired, mocked, and feared. Despite the wide variation of the films’ tones, all three explicitly deal with the idea of love and the transformation of love over the passage of time.

You Are the Apple of My Eye is a Taiwanese romance film from first-time director Giddens Ko, who adapted his own novel for the screen. The film follows Ko Ching-teng, a high-school slacker that falls for the goody two-shoes of the class, Shen Chia-yi. She, in turn, develops a crush on the rebellious teenager.  At first glance the plot seems familiar, but the filmmaker manages to depict his protagonists with a charming combination of honesty and self-mockery. Adapting his autobiographical novel, Ko seems to understand the life-or-death attitude young adults have towards love, but he’s able to make fun of it too. Ko Ching-teng, though he falls in love despite himself, is still just a teenage boy. Where the film really succeeds is its decision to have the characters go off to college before the film ends. Ko and Shen begin to change and become adults. In the face of such growth, can their feelings stay the same?

Kim Tae-Sik & Park Chul-Soo's Red Vacance, Black Wedding

The two Korean short films of Red Vacance, Black Wedding deal with love triangles in which an older man falls for a younger woman. The first, directed Kim Tae-Sik, details an outrageous battle royale after the wife discovers the affair when her husband and the young woman go on vacation together. Brokenhearted and distraught, the wife commits countless outrageous and violent acts, from dousing her husband in gas and threatening to set him aflame to wrestling with his mistress. The short is farcical, certainly, but poses interesting questions about why adults, in the name of love and desire, tend to act like children.

The second short, directed Park Chul-Soo, starkly contrasts the first in terms of style despite their close connection in subject matter. An aging professor has an affair with one of his students, only to end up officiating her wedding to another man. “I think I’ve grown up again,” the professor tells his student after they begin this affair, “but without getting old.” In the end, isn’t that what these men are after: to capture the long-lost excitement of a newfound attraction?

While many of the other selections from this year’s New York Asian Film Festival may be connected in their historical interests, these films are interwoven by their concern for human relationships, and their presentation points to the wide range of cinematic storytelling in modern Asian cinema. Combine the two with one or more other NYAFF films and save with our festival package!