I’ll begin this review letting you all know that Amphetamine is a homosexually driven film. If that isn’t your cup of tea then you might want to hit the back button. Screened at the 34th Hong Kong International Film Festival, this was the chosen film to close out the event. Now that it is coming to home video, I got a chance to see what the buzz about this film was all about. It follows gay lovers but it turns out that their addiction to love proves more fatal than the drugs they use to explore the boundaries of their friendship. Amphetamine is the second installment in a supposedly semi-autobiographical trilogy, which is to be completed with Scud’s upcoming film Life of an Artist.
The connection and growth of Kafka and Daniel’s relationship is quite heartbreaking to witness. The lead character Kafka spends most of the time being high, so there is little room for emotional development between Kafka and Daniel. There are far too many self indulgent scenes, trying too hard to make the film look artistic but in the end achieving nothing but being boring. On a good note, it is filmed beautifully and boasts some breathtaking locales. Even if the pacings and film didn’t gel well with me, it is undeniable his ability to convincingly convey confusing, affecting and damaging emotion. But, like I said, it is the visuals that are the real treat here. The production values are of high-standard as the same cinematographer who has contributed to both selections of our best Asian films of 2010, Alex Law’s Echoes of the Rainbow and Dante Lam’s Fire of Conscience.
Amphetamine has its best shot of profile on the gay and lesbian film festival circuit and its best sales chance is to niche distributors tapping into gay audiences on DVD and TV. Taking a page from other directors of late, the director makes a cameo as the keeper of a video store. Some would view this as a bit self-indulgence, but I was able to suspend my disbelief because I knew it would crucial to my overall rating of this film. Casting, acting, script, pacing, etc. aside, this is ultimately an exploration of the boundaries of love. Daniel does not regret his love for Kafka, who tries to love him back against his nature. Against the nature, you would never know, as the actors show considerable ease in numerous nude scenes. It seems only I, the viewer, was the only one flinching by the end of the film.
Amphetamine can be described as bittersweet, emotional, and sincere. The plot revolves around drug abuse, tragic love, and gays and lesbians. It is just too bad the material was better than the execution. I applaude it’s effort but ultimately I can’t recommend this to anyone looking for a great viewing experience. Daniel has no reason to regret his love for Kafka. Kafka does his best to reciprocate Daniel’s love by trying to accept it – even though he hasn’t exactly grown up with it. Daniel tries to help him off the amphetamine after a close call with the Chinese authorities but he doesn’t know the whole story. Sadly, this film isn’t interesting enough for anyone to care.