And now, Scary-Crayon reviews...
by: Wes

Sticky with the goo of Heaven.

Every day, on her way home from her job as an aromatherapy instructor, the beautiful yet sad Athena (Kelly Chen) purchases a single orange balloon. After bathing in a tub topped off with lavender petals, she writes, "I miss you very much," on it with a silver marker before releasing it into the clear night sky -- a message to her lover, gone from this world. But one night a violent storm prevents Athena from performing her nightly ritual -- and an honest-to-goodness angel (Takeshi Kaneshiro, China's answer to Keanu Reeves), whose name is also Angel, finds himself stranded on her balcony! Forced to live among humans until his wing heals and the Pope opens the Holy Door (seriously), thereby allowing him to pass ascend into Heaven once more, Athena makes a deal with Angel -- he can live with her in the interim if he promises to take something back to Heaven with him when he goes. And in that time, while helping Athena to overcome her grief, Angel learns about human things -- loss, friendship, and, of course, the value of true love.

Chow Chow likes teh mens.Even angels fuck!

Given the above description, Lavender sounds like a standard (read: boring) romantic fable, doesn't it? Sure, but that's before the weird particulars of the film rear their creepy freakish little heads! Like the fact that Angel feeds on "love" -- primarily as manifested in affection, admiration, and sexual attraction -- and since the mourning Athena is fairly cold during the first half of the movie, he finds it in the company of her flamboyantly gay, afro-wig wearing next door neighbor, Chow Chow (Eason Chan). At one point in the film, Chow Chow actually takes Angel to a ladies' strip club and puts him on stage -- thereby earning money for himself and love for Angel. Sure, everyone went home happy, but there's something odd and slightly unnerving about a film that essentially depicts the corruption of an angel. And later in the film, of course, Angel sleeps with Athena -- but aren't angels supposed to be above and beyond sexual desire and sweaty, lusty activities? Hmmm.

Shoes make Angel horny.Somebody really likes shoes...

Then there's the film's unsettling and almost fetishistic obsession in shoes. Angel literally buys dozens of pairs of shoes during the course of the film, and, when an enraged Athena throws some of them out, he spends an entire day scouring the dumpsters and trash cans of the city for his so-called favorite pair. At multiple points in the movie, closeups of the shoed feet of persons riding an escalator are shown moving in time with music. And no, though the shoes eventually become inexorably linked to the character of Angel, they don't appear to symbolize anything. It's just freaky.

"I've been with him since grade school!"

But the weirdness runs deeper than that -- and also makes one wonder about what is accepted behavior in Chinese society. For example, we find that Athena's dead boyfriend, Andrew, had simultaneously been sleeping with Chow Chow -- and had in fact been sleeping with Chow Chow for his entire adult life, even longer than he'd known Athena! This was common knowledge to all characters in the film, yet not a single character condemned Andrew's behavior, or told Athena that this dude had been fucking her next door neighbor and therefore wasn't worth all of the grief she put herself through, or displayed any indication that it was at all reprehensible or even unusual for a man in a committed relationship to regularly have sex with another person. Andrew wasn't on the down low, he was out and in the open -- and nobody cared! So while the movie doesn't make this out to be an important issue in the least, given that Athena spends much of the movie grieving for Andrew, I found the apparent dysfunctionality of the main characters' past relationships hard to ignore.

Awwww... *^^*In search of Lavender.

But despite the movie's outlandishly queer qualities -- or perhaps because of them -- I'd recommend Lavender to those seeking a decent romance film that doesn't star Meg Ryan or Drew Barrymore and lacks that manufactured, saccharine quality of modern Hollywood genre outings. Sure, per the subject matter, this movie has its moments of sweetness as well -- a quiet nighttime conversation between Angel and Athena while hanging out at a construction site is particularly touching, and Angel's acceptance of homosexuals, while perhaps not scripturally based, remains heartwarming and encouraging in these times when even politicians are thumping their Bibles and calling same-sex relationships immoral and hateful to the sight of God. In one scene, Chow Chow asks Angel if gays will go to Hell, whereupon the angel simply responds, "Whoever loves... will go to Heaven." I don't know if that's really the case or not, but it sure sounds nice.

Godspeed, Angel.

In conclusion, as strange and confusing as Lavender can be at times, its heart is in the right place -- and, as a result, its merits far outweigh its shortcomings. So at the end of the day, I've got nothing but love for it.  <3

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