Wenwen (Fei Fei Feng) is the daughter of a wealthy industrialist who happens to be driving along the street in Taipei in her yellow TR7 sports car when she catches the attention of architect Daigang (Kenny Bee) who is most impressed with how beautiful and cool she looks. He doesn't know if he will ever see her again, but she is now in his thoughts, and as they go about their days, Wenwen in her job on the board at her father's company, they have no idea their paths will cross later on. Another thing Daigang doesn't know is that the girl's father is also his boss, and a strict, controlling boss at that.
Even the most lauded directors have to start somewhere, and this was international cinema darling Hou Hsaio-Hsien's debut feature as director, though he had been making a living penning screenplays before that in the nineteen-seventies. He was responsible, among others, for raising the critical esteem of films away from the more traditional Japanese art films in the Far East and making audiences and taste makers realise there was more to world cinema than what had been accepted within some fairly narrow parameters. Cute Girl was not really one of the most vital examples of this, however.
It was a lightweight comedy romance that turned a shade more dramatic in the latter half when it appeared as if the lasting happiness of the central couple may be in doubt, but not so much to have you on the edge of your seat. In fact, it was almost a musical, not that the leads broke into serenading one another, but Kenny Bee had made his name as a pop star, and the soundtrack was liberally doused in musical interludes with songs like "Cute Girl", "Lovely Cute Girl" and "Her, Her, Lovely Cute Girl" - well, you got the idea with that. At least you couldn't accuse them under any trades descriptions acts.
For Feng (also a pop singer) was indeed a cute girl, and enjoyed a bright personality that matched the somewhat contrived messing around that passed for a plot. She and Bee were an attractive pair, and handled the humour well, even if a typical setpiece would see Daigang bitten by a caterpillar he believes was a snake and is humiliated by the country folk as they pretend to cure him of something that will clear up on its own, to the extent of giving him laxatives to send him rushing to the toilet with diarhoea. If you think that's hilarious, you and this movie would get on like a house on fire, but the truth was this could just as easily have been named Silly Girl and if anything, that would be even more apt, it was far from deep.
And yet, with its rural folk versus city folk narrative (which it ditched in the last half hour) there were opportunities for Hou to lend proceedings a pastoral look that indicated where his interest truly lay; every so often there would be a sequence where his camera merely observed the characters going about their day and the results were quite relaxing. Obviously, this was going to be of most interest to his established fans as they attempted to divine the talent that brought about some of their favourite World Cinema efforts in its nascent form, as you cannot imagine a pop star vehicle from eighties Taiwan prompting much fascination otherwise, and it was more that than it was any sort of exquisitely produced art film. But it passed the time agreeably enough, and was not as inane as the premise implied, though the pat ending was difficult to swallow. Music by Huang Mou Shan.
Limited Edition O-card [2000 copies First Print Run Only]
1080p presentations of all three films, across two Blu-ray discs
Uncompressed LPCM audio
Optional English subtitles
Video essays on all three films by Adrian Martin and Cristina Álvarez López
A collector's booklet featuring a new essay by Phillip Kemp.]
From Seventies pop idol to Eighties comedy staple and beyond (including some solid action and dramatic roles) Kenny Bee remains a huge star in Asia. You can see him recreating his flared trousered glory days alongside band-mate Alan Tam in Jackie Chan's Armour of God.