Yin-jung Chen’s Young Dudes (2012) is a Taiwanese comedy drama set against a dark, post-apocalyptic backdrop. However, despite being perfectly pitched for an open-minded film festival audience, this high concept sci-fi infused piece of surrealist cinema confounds far more than it intrigues.
Aspiring rock musician Adam (Wang Po-Chieh) is obsessed with a forthcoming apocalypse, rumoured to be on much the same scale as the biblical flood that led to Noah building his infamous ark. He ropes in his reluctant friend Guy (Tsuyoshi Abe – a carpentry teacher) to join him in creating a virtual spaceship called Klaatu, which aims to challenge the notion of ‘nations’ and create a more global community based on the ideal of a worldwide family. Joined by a random Russian lady called Adele (Larisa Bakurova), the trio quickly becomes a global sensation, provoking a mixture of media sensationalism and group camaraderie.
This loose, shifting film attempts to tap into the zeitgeist of a generation disenfranchised with the crumbling world which surrounds them. However, in attempting to cover a multitude of bases and address various cultural issues, Chen has created a horribly confusing feature, which lacks any semblance of narrative or plot.
There’s no denying that Young Dudes’ music video aesthetic (complete with lush, humid neon lighting and beautifully rendered slow motion tracked by a range of eclectic pop and rock songs) is beautifully constructed – creating a visually alluring tapestry of sublime imagery. Yet for this picturesque approach to resonate there needs to be some kind of narrative hook to engage the audience into the ludicrous activities of these deeply self obsessed protagonists. Indeed, Young Dudes often feels like watching the drunken ramblings of three Shoreditch hipsters documented by an aspiring music video director, an outlandish tale without the foundations required for its numerous flights of the imagination to make any sense.
Far more gruelling than it is beguiling, this horrendous mash-up feels like watching the dreams of a drug-addled simpleton documented by a director with no concept of narrative structure. At the end of the film, the three central characters are reunited in a rural campsite whilst a miniature festival is in full flow. One turns to the other and asks “Did the world end?.” The reply is simple, and in turn sums up the film: “I don’t know”.
Young Dudes is a terribly pretentious and over indulgent film that’s more than guilty of gross style over substance.
The 66th Edinburgh International Film Festival takes place from 20 June-1 July, 2012. For more of our EIFF 2012 coverage, simply follow this link.