Reviewed by Adrian Sim
Chinese Title: Hu Die
Director: Mak Yan Yan
Writing Credits: Chen Xue, Mak Yan Yan
Cast: Chan Yat Ning, Stephanie Che, Joman Chiang, Josie Ho, Eric Kot, Kenneth Tsang
Country: Hong Kong
Year Released: 2004
Runtime: 124 min
Indie filmmaker, Mak Yan Yan's elegiac Butterfly is a solid entry to the burgeoning Chinese homosexual cinema scene.
Butterfly tells the tormented tale of a lesbian teacher, called Hu Die or 'Butterfly' in Mandarin, played with soulful conviction by Josie Ho. She is struggling to break free of the stifling reins of being an attentive mother and faithful wife. At the same time she is trying to rekindle her 'forbidden' desires with an enigmatic singer, in the face of all these constraints.
Intercutting this contemporary story is an adolescent one, depicted in the form of flashbacks, involving a young Hu Die and her passionate love affair with the precocious tomboy Zhen Zhen.
This approach works really well in giving a wholesome understanding of Hu Die. We come full circle in understanding her transformation from a flighty, slightly gullible young girl to a frumpy, saddened teacher.
Director Mak coaxes strong performances from the cast, particularly the girls playing young Hu Die and Zhen Zhen through their turbulent rites of passage. The film's numerous sex scenes are well-handled and never feel distasteful but rather, bookends Hu Die's entrenched love for her Zhen Zhen and her singer lover.
Eric Kot, more recognizable for his marquee slapstick roles in Hong Kong films, nicely delivers an understated performance as Hu Die's workaholic husband.
In a nutshell, Butterfly delivers a potent message about the need to be brave and stand up for ourselves in pursuit of happiness.