Movie review: Spider Lilies

Spider Lilies (Ci Qing) -- a Taiwanese movie starring Rainie Yang and Isabella Leong

Spider Lilies (刺青) is a Taiwanese movie starring Rainie Yang (楊丞琳) and Isabella Leong (梁洛施). Yang plays the character of Xiao Lu (小綠), a webcam girl who decides on getting a tattoo (the name of the movie in Chinese means tattoo). She then meets tattooist Takeko (Isabella Leong). The main plot of the movie centres around the relationship between the two women. 

I think the key theme of the movie is how events of the past can weigh heavily in the present and prevent people from being what they truly want to be. Both characters suffered losses as a result of the 921 earthquake and these continue to haunt them in the present. Xiao Lu seeks to connect with Takeko in order to return to a happy moment in the past. Her role as a webcam girl means that she is frustrated by her isolation and lack of relationships in the real world. 

Isabella Leong as Takeko in Spider Lilies

Isabella Leong as Takeko (photo from spiderlilies-movie.com)

Takeko has tried to suppress those memories and still lives with a great burden. She has to care for her brother, A-qing (阿青), who suffers from dissociative disorder (解離症). She feels responsible for him after losing her father in the 921 earthquake.

Two of the other main male characters in the movie are both interesting and complex. There is A-dong (阿東), the epitome of taike (台客), who hangs around the tattoo parlor. And Da Yu (大宇), a young police man with a stutter who watches Xiao Lu via the webcam. They seem like an adjunct to the film when they could have played a greater role in it.  

The movie is well shot and edited and the stars give good performances in a touching drama. According to today's Taipei Times the movie had the fifth highest box office takings in Taipei last weekend. This is quite good considering it was showing at only a limited number of cinemas. It is a pity that it wasn't given more promotion and a wider release, because with two big stars it has what it takes to be a success. 

Please note: The version I saw had no subtitles in either English or Chinese. A small part of the film was in Japanese and this had Chinese subtitles.  

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8 thoughts on “Movie review: Spider Lilies

  1. It’s sad that people see having “big stars” as a requirement for wide distribution. In Taiwan, box office results don’t mean nearly as much as a level of incomprehensibility high enough to win a Golden Bear.

  2. Poagao, I am interested to hear your thoughts. I don’t think commercial success or big stars necessarily equate with a good film. But I am curious as to why Taiwanese films cannot be more popular or successful with local audiences. Why do people prefer to see the latest Hollywood movie when they can see something in their own language that relates more to their own culture?

  3. I’m no expert, but my guess is that most local filmmakers, being dependent on investment in a society averse to investment in a movie is seen as risky, have over the last decade or so gravitated towards the kind of projects that can win government grants, i.e. “art films” that are popular in Europe.

    Now, however, a few filmmakers are beginning to realize that their audiences understanding their films is indeed a good thing, but audiences here have been “trained” to see Taiwanese films as not meant for them but made for European film festival judges, whereas Hollywood markets “pure entertainment” with little need for thought, and perhaps more people feel that that is something they can understand. Digital technology is allowing cheaper productions and less dependence on grants, which I think could be a good thing.

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  6. We can’t deny the fact that people love Hollywood films. They’re big, well-invested, hi-fi etc etc. And most Asians really love Hollywood. But Hollywood movies are more into presentation and not the content. Beauty more than essence. A reason why we are so much enticed with our own products because they look simple and that they were made with low budget.

    But I’m glad that these types of films don’t go out too much in public. Because if a film enters the mainstream, it becomes corrupted. I’m glad not too many people like the films I like. I just can’t explain why.

  7. hello!
    I,m Melissa Mandrilla
    actually I,m the one of no. 1 fan of rainie yang together w/mike he
    i love all of her movies specially
    devil besides me,why why love,miss no good,and noe spider lilies
    ,,,when i first saw isabella leong
    i dont have any idea about her,
    and i decided to search about her,and now i recognize that she is a good actress,

  8. i like small production movies which usually have heavy messages in them. i love shor films too. i find this movie speaks alot on emotion and that is why i think the lesbian part comes in. to me, homosexual tend to feel more emotions and can be very touchy and sensative. when i watch this movie, i focus more on rainie’s character and her innnerself, try to feel like her..it is very sad….being her. i like this show , just like tala jolie, i too don’t think many will like what i like but i am glad people don’t like what i watch…

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