Blue Cha Cha 深海 (Shen hai) [2005] • Taiwan

It's a great pleasure when watching a film you're enjoying and knew nothing about to recognize that beyond being a good film you are also experiencing the work of a skilled director. The upside to this is that there's a good chance you'll have at least a few more good films in your future. Such is the case with Blue Cha Cha.

The film begins with Ah Yu, played by Taiwanese singer Tarcy Su, being released from prison. We aren't told why she was there or how long she was in for. She makes her way to the home of a weathered motherly woman named An-an, played by veteran actress Yi-Ching Lu, whom she had come to know in prison. An-an takes her in and gives her job at the hostess bar she operates. After an arranged date doesn't pan out the way Ah Yu expected it to, she quits the bar and takes a job at a computer factory. Her relationship with a young supervisor she meets there, along with her ongoing and anchoring relationship with An-an, is the meat of this film.

Blue Cha Cha requires patience, and yes, that's code for it being an art house type film that moves slowly and doesn't offer a lot of detail as to why things are happening. Beyond a somewhat ambiguous statement near the end of the film revealing why Ah Yu was in prison we never learn anything about her past, and throughout the film it is clear that she has no idea nor concrete desires for her future. She just drifts along, medicated, mentally unstable yet always trying to be nice, hoping each day will offer some measure of fulfillment. Blue Cha Cha isn't a low-budget indie film, though. It has excellent production values and looks very good. The direction is fluid and creative and the cinematography is great.

As I always say, these kinds of films need good characters and good performances in order to succeed. Blue Cha Cha delivers them. Yi-Ching Lu, who has been in a number of films by Ming-liang Tsai, is always reliable. She's tough and unafraid to do almost anything as an actress. But the real highlight here is Tarcy Su. She is able to make us care for a character we never learn much about. We're not always clear about what is going on inside her head but we're always sure she is experiencing something. It's very surprising to me how well she is able to articulate a confused yet committed mind without offering any insight as to the details of the matter. There's a scene where she is laying in bed with a man, staring at him face to face as he drifts in and out of sleep. There is a frightening authenticity to her gaze which offers no explanation as to its genesis.

The ending is peculiar, and depending on how you interpret a couple of things ambiguously discussed and stated it could actually result in a big blunder. I don't care. I'm not a fan of films which attempt an explanation for the mental instability of their characters. I appreciate that Cheng leaves it as a lingering issue until the very end of the film, and I doubly appreciate that he leaves it ambiguous enough to ignore if it is something we find questionable.

Director: Wen-Tang Cheng
Starring: Tarcy Su, Yi-Ching Lu, Leon Dai, Wei Lee, Cheung-Ying Lin

Asia Pacific Arts 

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