DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
THE BOYS FROM FENGKUEI (FENG GUI LAI DE REN) (ALL THE YOUTHFUL DAYS) (director: Hsiao-Hsien Hou; screenwriter: Zhu Tianwen; cinematographer: Chen Kunhou; editor:  Liao Qingsong; music: Ry Du-Che Tu/ Vivaldi/ Bach; cast: Ching-tzu (Ah-Ching), Chun-fang Chang (Hsaio-Hsien); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Zhang Huakun/ Lin Rongfeng; ; 1983-Taiwan-in Mandarin with English subtitles)

 
"An early film by Taiwanese master filmmaker Hsiao-Hsien Hou."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An early film by Taiwanese master filmmaker Hsiao-Hsien Hou ("Flowers of Shanghai"/"The Puppetmaster"/"Goodbye South, Goodbye"), which was his first indie production and presented to good effect his celebrated experimental long take shots and plotless stories. It's written by Zhu Tianwen as a declaration of how confusing it is being a male teenager when trying to find one's identity and way in the world while trying to navigate through relationships with family, friends, girls and bosses.

The introspective Ah-Ching is devastated because his dad was hit in the face with a baseball and is now in a veggie state, and without father supervision hangs out with his three loafer pals who have left school without graduating and are waiting to be called-up for their army duty. The playful boys reside in the backwater fishing village of Fengkuei in the Penghu islands, where they get into trouble because of a fight over cheating in cards. After pulling some pranks and sneaking into an arthouse movie theater showing Luchino Visconti's Rocco and His Brothers (1959), which follows the same youthful togetherness theme as this pic,  three of the boys split for the bigger port city of Kaohsiung to seek work and more fun. One of the boy's older sister lives there and hooks them up with adequate living quarters. The playful boys get factory jobs in the same place their young neighbor couple works. Ah-Ching is attracted to his criminal neighbor's girlfriend Hsaio-Hsien. After the neighbor, Ah-ho,  is canned for stealing goods from the workplace and ships out to sea, Ah-Ching begins a cautious romance with Hsaio-Hsien. But she suddenly flees to Taipei to live with an older sister, and the crushed Ah-Ching, in the last shot, is seen with his two other pals futilely selling stolen tapes in the marketplace and in desperation, being uncertain of his future, shouting out about an unbelievable sale.

The aimless boys, in this coming-of-age film, have to wrestle with the death of one of their father's, being scammed by a con artist, discovering because of their lack of educational credentials they are fit for only low-end factory jobs and that finding the right women is not that easy. It's an enjoyable sentimental film that has a few laughs over observing how dumb teens can act and that there's a wake-up call around the corner when they suddenly realize their irresponsible childhood days are about to end and that being a grown-up calls for maturity.

REVIEWED ON 2/27/2013       GRADE: B+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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