Asian-American films, program two

Taiwanese director Huang Yu-shan's Spring Cactus (1998) is a remarkably vivid and harrowing chronicle of a rebellious young girl's downward spiral into drugs and prostitution. Xiao Lan leaves her broken, working-class home after her best friend in high school, an impressionable rich kid, dies of a cocaine overdose. A tough-talking brat with a tender heart, she hangs out with petty gangsters and call girls, gets addicted to coke, and with the help of a Christian evangelist tries to go straight. Huang's depiction of the seedy milieu of bars and other low-life joints in a provincial town is unblinkingly realistic, and her refusal to soften Xiao Lan's abrasive persona or sanctify her suffering makes the character even more sympathetic. In Ho-hyun Jung's hour-long video Extremely Ordinary (1999) a group of young Seoul women chatter away about various women's issues, from premarital sex to contemporary ideals of femininity. On the same program, local filmmaker Wen Hwa Ts'ao's Cola for Tea, in which a young Chinese-American woman, recently released from a mental hospital, goes over the edge when she discovers that her husband is having an affair with her friend. (TS)

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