Crystal Boys

I no longer know how to phrase these coincidences happening around me, serendipity? Is there still any surprise left to accidental surprises if it’s for the nth time?  Whatever it is, I’ve been watching a drama with a TWexiled KMT veteran Dad.

I started Crystal Boys, a 2003 PTS 20 eps drama, a few weeks ago.    PTS used to be the only source of TWdramas I watch.  I’ve read the novel it’s based on by Pai Hsien-yung but somehow missing this.  It can easily be labeled an LGBT gem, which it is rightfully a seminal piece.  What gets me squarely in my guts so far though are the FatherSon and MotherSon family dynamics.

A quote from the novel fr googlebook reviewer Tze-Wan:

“When I went to bed I thought of my own father. I recalled the time he’d pinned his Order of the Precious Tripod on my lapel, so seriously, so grandly. He probably thought I looked a lot like him, too. Too bad he had to go and pin all his hopes on someone like me. […] No, I think I knew how much Father had suffered. In the months since I’d left home, my knowledge of the terrible agony he was enduring pressed down more and more heavily on my heart. That unbearable agony was probably what I was trying to hid from. […] I had to keep away from Father because I knew I couldn’t bear to see the look of anguish on his devastated face. – Crystal Boys“

Fan ChiWei’s A-Qing:

The story is set in 1970s Taipei.  Our hero is the teenager A-Qing (adult by Fan Chi-wei, spot-on awesome) living with his nuclear family in the poorer quarters of  the city.  His father is a strict army man, a wrongfully dishonored and dismissed KMT veteran who fought valiantly in the civil war, being the lone survivor of his brigade….but he was held captive as prisoner of war and mistreated all around.  He’s living off sympathy of other old comrades, with a low-paying job, barely scraping by.  Mom is much younger, clearly attractive when she’s a young woman, now trapped in a dead-end marriage where her husband is more an authoritative daddy figure, to cope, she focuses all her energy in doting on her younger son, biased against A-Qing ‘responsible’ for her near-death labor during his delivery, leaving A-Qing squarely in the middle getting no apparent physical affection, through it all he’s a gentle, warm, sensitive, caring soul who loves his family as much as he can.   I thought he’d be broken beyond repair at times, but he soldiers on.

A Qing with his younger bro, growing up.  He is his primary care taker, I’m such a horrible evil big sis by comparison.

Don’t count this as spoiler because it’s crystal clear in the opening sequence starting every ep A-Qing is gay and will be disowned, banished by his dad, beaten out of their home.  The next phase of his life happens around New Park, a notorious gay hangout spot where he finds his new make-shift family and struggles to find his own identity while being filial, combating the marginalization and trepidations being openly gay in a conservative TW in the 70s.   New Park is where we meet all the other characters, all having their own journeys,  Tony Yang‘s Zhao Ying and Joseph Chang‘s Wu Min to name a few.  tbh I’m not as rabid now after the first arc focusing on their family because the pace is a bit snailing even for a PTS masterpiece production (ie Not!idoldrama).

There is also the fact I enjoy the out of this world amazing performances of the veterans esp Dad by 柯俊雄 and Mom by Ke Shu Qin much more than all the young hot gay men combined.  They are very far from perfect parents, esp Mom, but we see how strugglingly they tried.  Whenever Dad is nostalgic, reminiscing the hard battles he’s fought, all the brave noble deeds of his youth, of his bold, briskly dry homeland ShanDong…and we r fed the visual of this defeated yet proud old stately man still with a fight or 2 in him, but life and fate keeps beating on him HARD,  I can hear my heart shatters.  The style is stark, crude and real, the farthest of spectrum in cinematography as a LoveRain, I can almost smell the dinginess and feel the always humid damp moldy walls of their cramped squalor while I take the journey in time to the outskirts of the poorer 70s Taipei.

For those interested in the meatload,  there are a number of frank, appropriate hot steamy scenes, done with nice control, nth exploitative. I very welcome them not from the usual pervie side of me, but it’s real and right for the ambiance and tone of the drama.  No cop out here.  They really kiss and make out,  It is a drama done with so much respect despite some artistic liberties for the beautifully sensitively written novel (which is translated to multiple languages), it’s been on the top of many TWdrama lists from my critic friends.  There may be J subs coz I saw a trailer in Japanese, but other than that it’s a rarer non-mass breed, so I expect eng subs nonexistent, there is never a bigger shame.  *sigh*

Try it out if you are a fangirl of any of the long list of hotties (if you haven’t already seen it).  Try it out if you are in the mood for some slice of life trip back to the gay community in 70s Taipei.  Try it out for the acting alone (there are so many familiar supporting faces, many I’ve last seen in Office Girl)

The trailer: