So much of mainstream cinema is framed around men looking at women. Think of Jimmy Stewart stalking Kim Novak in Vertigo in an extended sequence with nearly no dialogue whatsoever. There’s an unnerving quality to it, which ultimately hints at the darkness underpinning the gender imbalance in our society. With Blooming Night, Bell Zhong successfully queers this heteronormative staple of cinematic storytelling.
A young man, played by the director, is struck by a person in red heels while loitering in the city. Following the faceless figure, mainstream assumptions foretell doom. Either the man is a sinister figure who is going to bring harm to the woman, or she is a siren luring this hapless male to his doom. These assumptions were built up by a heteronormative culture, and the short thankfully conforms to neither.
The red heels do lure the man to a dark place, but it is not what you think, nor what you expect. It is a secret club for older gay men, and the one wearing the red heels is an ageing drag queen. All too often in film, the reveal of gender non-conformity is either seen as a threat or joke, but in Blooming Night there is a tenderness to this moment. The lens flare effect of lights in the dark club evoke a quietly magical atmosphere. The tenderness of the near-wordless performances by Bell Zhong, and Fei Jin, as they face each other for the first time makes this moment dream-like, and the film ends on a pitch-perfect note.
Blooming Night is simple in premise, but its idiosyncrasies and general queerness transcend this mundane plot and ends up evoking the unique experience of discovering queerness in oneself. As queer representation becomes more normative and mainstream, films like this should be cherished.
CAST: Bell Zhong, Fei Jin
DIRECTOR: Bell Zhong
WRITER: Bell Zhong
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: Mary Evangelista
SYNOPSIS: Mesmerized by a pair of red heels, a lonely street guy in Shanghai follows its owner into a forbidden club. There, he discovers something that challenges, yet awakens his mind.