Magazine article Variety

First Time

Magazine article Variety

First Time

Article excerpt


First Time


(China Hong Kong)

Like a latte with caramel on lop and coffee residue at I Inhot toni, "First Time" starts off as a treacly teen daydream and changes course halfway through to deconstruct its own romantic myth. Mainland helmer Man Van depicts puppy love from a girl's perspective, then challenges its sugar-coated idealism with a revelatory boy's version. Unabashedly artificial in its vaguely Mediterranean ambience, as well as on an emotional level, the pic nonetheless impresses as an exercise in narrative ingenuity, and brings oui maximum appeal from its leads. IVveen-largeted item is generating positive local B.O., but holds less promise outside Chinese-speaking territories.

The pic is split into two parts of 39 minutes and 63 minutes each, delineated by shots of cassette tapes labeled "Side A" and "Side B." In the first story, college student Song Shiqiao (Angelababy) pours out her fantasies about love on a lape recorder. Her Intended audience is Gong Ning(Mark Chao), a classmate she's carried a torch for since he suddenly dropped out of school years ago. ( )ne day. they recognize each oilier under comical circumstances in ;ui amusement park, where Ning is performing with his band.

Their early dating attempts are thwarted by Shiqiao's mom (Jiang Shan), who worries that emotional upheavals may exacerbate her daughter's respiratory paralysis, the same illness that took her husband's life. However, her apprehension is offset by the joy Ning brings Shiqiao, who since childhood has been deprived of intense experiences - run ning. dancing or falling in love. All is hunky-dory until Shiqiao inadvertently discovers thai Ning has been lying abolii his family background.

Al this point, "Side 15," from Ning's point of view, lakes over, and every key scene is replayed and reprised to clever effect, offering motives for his actions and giving sharper definition to his character. The epilogue springs imother surprise that reaffirms Shiqiao's fundamental values of love by infusing them with the spirit of carpe diem.

Although the pic cites as its source the 2003 Korean romance " ... ing," crucial modifications have been made not only in the way the plot is unraveled, but also in mood and style. The prolags here have sunnier dispositions, and I heir indefensibly cheesy dating rituals nonetheless generale a dynamic, youthful vibe propelled by Ning's pop-rock performances. The playful, bosombuddy interactions between Shiqiao and her mol her are paralleled by the more fraught but no less loving relationship between Ning and his widower father (Zhao Shuhai). …

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