In her first feature film, the young Chinese director Yuan Qing does not hide her admiration for Eric Rohmer. The opening of the Collector (1967), detailing in close-up the protagonist in a swimsuit, is explicitly cited (as it was recently in An easy girl by Rebecca Zlotowski – interesting appropriations by two female filmmakers of this fragmented description of a female body), but it is above all Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle (1987) which serves here as a matrix. The three stories that make up the story of 3 Adventures of Brooke start at the same time, which is a little remake of the first scene in Rohmer's film: a young woman punctures a tire from her bicycle on a country road. Here, her name is Xingxi, she is a Chinese woman passing through the small Malaysian town of Alor Setar. In each part, her puncture leads her to meet someone different who will influence her way of living three times on the same days: a young girl of her rather unpredictable age, a group of idle boys, then a French writer interpreted by one of Rohmer's favorite actors, Pascal Greggory. The key to this variant film being quickly given by a fortune teller: "The people you meet are a reflection of your state of mind."
Secrets and signs
The film is more deeply Rohmerian than a simple series of quotes and tributes. First by the way that Yuan Qing uses the topography and the landscapes of the place where it turns, this city of Alor Setar of which it gradually reveals the rice fields, the streets, the parks populated by monkeys, then the islands and the beaches. The strolls and conversations that structure the three parts are punctuated by secrets and signs, where the most tangible reality sometimes seems to be crossed by almost magical manifestations (as in the sign of the lion, the Nights of the full moon or the green ray). In the third part, the secrets of beings merge with the mysteries of nature. The name of the heroine, which means "stream" in Chinese (brook, in English), refers to a real stream, whose filth and sadness she identifies with her own moods. Pierre, the Frenchman, seeks to observe a phenomenon called "blue tears", a bluish and scintillating glow sometimes visible on the Asian coasts. This vision recalls the blue hour of Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle or, even more, the green ray in the film bearing this title: epiphanies in which there is a perfect harmony between the feelings of the characters and the world they contemplate.
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But if Rohmer is very present, 3 Adventures of Brooke especially applies to the displacements which it operates in relation to the master. First of all, a geographical displacement which inscribes the story in a reality, a nature and a society quite different from that of the French filmmaker. The film is also imbued with a singular melancholy, little Rohmerian, where the present is more and more subjected to the absence, a feeling of loss, of inexorable.
The three parts begin at the same point in space and time, each telling an adventure evolving differently according to the chance of the meetings. More than the conditional of the Tree, the Mayor and the Media Library (each chapter of which began with a "Yes…"), we are thinking here of chronological deconstructions and variations of the same story proposed by another Rohmer disciple, the Korean Hong Sang-soo. Like the latter, Yuan Qing takes up his story to better understand all the complexity of his protagonist through the different possibilities, regrets and hopes that constitute it. Xingxi / Brooke is the same character but who reveals himself differently each time, to deliver more sincerely and painfully in the last part. As if we had needed no less than three variants to be able to get so close to it.
The names of Rohmer and Hong Sang-soo can seem overwhelming. On the contrary, they define the family in which Yuan Qing manages to register very intelligently, and in an already very personal way, even in his sense as elegant as discreet of light (she is also at ease in the decor natural than artificial, night and day), colors, frames, landscapes. Far from making it a school work, these assumed references (and which the spectator can by the way do without) give 3 Adventures of Brooke rare maturity and assurance for a first film.
3 Adventures of Brooke of Yuan Qing with Xu Fangyi, Pascal Greggory, Ribbon, Kam Kia Kee… 1 h 40.
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