Films & Schedules

  • Ocean Flame

  • Liu Fendou

Hong Kong
Mandarin, Cantonese
102 minutes

Production Company:
Filmko Entertainment Limited
Executive Producer:
Stanley Tong, Liu Xiao Dian
Simon Yam
Liu Fendou, based on the novel Yiban Shi Haishui, Yiban Shi Huoyan by Wang Shuo
Production Designer:
Li Yang, Raymond Kwok
Chen Ying, Chan Chor Keung
Kwong Chi Leung
Kinson Tsang
Ronald Ng
Principal Cast: Liao Fan, Monica Mok, Hai Yitian, Lam Suet, Simon Yam

International Sales Agent:
Katapult Film Sales

Thursday September 0408:30PM VARSITY 4 Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist
Saturday September 0609:45AM SCOTIABANK THEATRE 1 Best Bet Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist
Thursday September 1109:00PM AMC 7 Best Bet Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist

Part devastating love story, part gangster flick, Ocean Flame is a passionate melodrama and the sophomore work by Liu Fendou, an emerging enfant terrible of mainland Chinese cinema. Violently charming and tenderly sado-masochistic, the film defies the gravity of correct gender politics, exposing the fragile side of abuse and melting it into crushing romanticism. After his critically acclaimed debut Green Hat, Liu tests his directorial hand on a smouldering adaptation of Wang Shuo's renowned novel, translating the book's soul into Jean Genet-like visions of fierce beauty. Directing the virgin talents of newcomer Monica Mok, he skilfully plays with the contrasting emotions and different worlds suggested by the film's title.

Within the closed perimeter of a few locations – striking, wild beaches or anonymous hotel rooms – a tainted love affair unravels between a petty criminal and a beautiful waitress, their tortured story enclosed in a long, lingering flashback. At the heart of the narrative is Lichuan (Mok), a coffee-shop server who becomes confronted by a hated love, Wang Yao (Liao Fan). An unscrupulous pimp who derives his income by blackmailing his girls' clients in elaborate sex scams, Wang Yao meets Lichuan after he has been beaten up by a gang of rival thugs, her perfect features slowly coming into focus despite the bloody haze caused by his broken nose. It is love at first sight, but the fatal attraction connecting them and the sick, reciprocal addiction to their desperate love will soon have a firm, destructive grip on the couple's soul.

Freedom is – ironically – the word that best defines Liu's gritty poetics and the ramshackle underworld they depict. Revelling in the steamy claustrophobia of l'amour fou, his powerful, resolute strokes follow the uneven pace of the protagonists' drive to annihilation in a remarkable fusion of liberated form and content. Traces of Kim Ki-duk and Takeshi Kitano's work can be detected in the exquisite physicality of sex, passion and violence that criss-crosses this story of lethal love.

At times brutal yet excruciatingly tender and cutting edge, Ocean Flame confirms Liu's place as China's new spokesman of provocative aesthetics.

Giovanna Fulvi

Liu Fendou was born in Xi'an, China, and began his career as a screenwriter. His writing credits include Spicy Love Soup (97), Beautiful New World (99),Shower (99) and Spring Subway (02). He has written and directed the feature films Green Hat (04) and Ocean Flame (08).

Cadillac People's Choice Award