12 Lotus (2008)
Director: Royston Tan
Cast: Liu Ling Ling, Mindee Ong, Qi Yuwu
Plot: The film tells the story of a singer and the heartless men in her life who use and abuse her.
Awards: Nom. for 1 Golden Horse - Best Original Score
IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)
12 Lotus is Royston Tan's companion piece to his successful, box-office hit, 881 (2007). Many mistake 12 Lotus to be the direct sequel to 881. Though both are musical dramas and have getai elements in it, they are two very different pictures. While 881 explored themes of rivalry, suffering, and family bonding, 12 Lotus ventures more into abstract territory, exploring themes of loneliness, love, and regret. Ironically, despite the thematic depth of 12 Lotus, it is in my opinion the lesser of the two films.
12 Lotus brings back some of the familiar faces such as Mindee Ong, Liu Ling Ling, and Qu Yu Wu. Their individual performances have matured, but collectively, they lack the vibrancy and freshness that made 881 such a colorful film. While the production design is top-notch, and the camerawork fluid, the editing leaves much to be desired. The transition from loud, energetic getai stage songs to quiet moments of drama is too sudden and often ill-timed, affecting viewers who wish to take in the music to lose focus.
The songs in 12 Lotus are not as catchy as that of 881, though the title song is excellent enough to move viewers to the brink of tears. The main flaw of 12 Lotus is the character development of its lead role. It starts with a young Lian Hua who grows up to become a singer. She then finds love at the expense of regret and loneliness. The character ends up leading a pitiful life as reflected from the solemn theme song. The three stages of Lian Hua's life are played out by three different actresses, including Mindee Ong and Liu Ling Ling.
The jarring part occurs during the Mindee Ong-Liu Ling Ling transition. First, both of them do not even remotely resemble each other (I can see how ten years can transform a person's physique, but definitely not their faces). Second, how can someone become so chitty-chatty after years living in isolation? Lastly, why hasn't Qu Yu Wu's character aged as well? These are questions to ponder and they highlight the weaknesses of the casting and character development. In a nutshell, 12 Lotus is average for a Royston Tan picture, though one can feel he’s somehow steering in the right direction.