'Love Lost' by Leonard Lai - SIFF




That unsettling climax. That's got to be what Leonard wanted us to walk away with. It's been more than a month since I've watched Love Lost and that is still is the first scene I remember. But I am not going to reveal what it is until you share this journey of being lost in love, Taipei, time and even porn with me. Yes, there is porn somewhere inside!

'Love Lost' is Leonard's first attempt at acting and directing at the same time. It is also like an experiment in which he tries to reconstruct (perhaps without a script) scenes from his personal breakup. And it is daringly 45min long which teeters on the fence between a short and feature - facing the risk of not qualifying for certain competitions. The story single-mindedly explores the emotional journey of young man who returns to Taipei (from Singapore) to try to rekindle a broken relationship. From the general dynamics of the events, it is a largely linear story peppered with flashbacks. What makes it special?

Honestly, the thought of the director embarking on a journey of self-discovery through re-enacting an episode in his life, gives me as much thrill as watching an esoteric installation art performance. You are either soaked into it or as amused as a transient museum tourist. But watching the film offered another treat - the freedom of form. "Love Lost' is experimental and 'ill-disciplined' in its style. Whilst trying to imagine ourselves in the soggy and cluttered back alleys of Taipei, Leonard makes a few genre- bending swerves. One distinctive 'trick' was "Leonard-of-the-present' and 'Leonard-of-the-past' sharing the same frame, There is also a jogging-through on the screen of his sms exchange with Faith. But the one that left the most indelible mark is use of stills to take us through the scene in which Leonard attempts to reconciliate with Faith.

Sometimes, this film seems like a '10 things we do when we lose love' kind of film in which the character moves from one indulgent act to another. The opening film already sets the tone of it. A skinny man squats in a forlorn manner in the bathroom while he lets the jets of water from the shower stream down his naked body. In the background is a sobbing sound that sometimes reaches the pitch of a woman. It takes a little time to register that it came from him. Then after a string of desperate acts in Taipei, he finally comes to his basest needs. He tunes in to porn online and starts masturbating. The sequence, though deliberate, gave me a point of connection with the character. It levelled down his behaviour to something we could identify with. And in the context of his breakup, it is helpessly human. I was not too sure about the Chinese lullaby (sung by Faith, reclining next to him) setting the perfect tone for this. :P It was unsettling for sure.

So on hindsight, it's funny how we humans can go from chasing romantic ideals to just satisfying basic needs. Without addressing this, 'Love Lost' would have not have found its way out of the woods.

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