Help Me, Eros (Taiwan; 103min.)


directed by: Lee Kang-Sheng
starring: Lee Kang-Sheng, Jane Liao, Dennis Lieh, Ivy Li
Bangbang Wo Aishen
 

Bruce says: "During the great Asian financial boom in early 1990’s director Lee Kang-Sheng was an unemployed actor with lots of time on his hands. The Taiwanese film industry was doing poorly in the face of Hollywood dominance in international markets. Lee discovered day trading and made a small fortune for himself. New found money turned Lee towards the materialistic, leaving him feeling more empty than fulfilled. When the financial markets collapsed he lost his fortune faster than he made it. He could not summon the courage to tell anyone so he resorted to calling a helpline; ironically the helpline was always busy. HELP ME EROS is a fantasy drawn from his personal experiences at that time, during which he felt suicidal and became addicted to food, drugs and sex – all means to fill the void.

"HELP ME EROS is a cautionary tale of what can happen when a man enters a wearied state of despair unprepared for the challenges he needs to meet. As the film begins we learn that Ah Jie (Lee Kang-Sheng) has lost all his money. He spends his days locked in his apartment smoking weed that he grows in his closet and having lurid sexual fantasies. He stalks his former girlfriend who wants nothing to do with him. His apartment is located is a strange neighborhood. The street in front resembles a strip mall with many beetle nut kiosks run by scantily clad young girls in five inch platform heels dotting the curb line. Truck drivers and other blue collar workers stop at the kiosks for Red Bulls, cigarettes, beetle nuts...and perhaps more. Ah Jie becomes friendly with the girls and begins having an affair with one of them. Their sex is explicit and acrobatic. When he is alone he becomes suicidal and calls a hotline and become fixated on one of the girls who takes the calls. While he tells her he 'can’t go on living' he fantasizes about having a relationship with her and becomes increasingly more agitated and frustrated with the relationship he does have. Meanwhile the electricity and water are turned off. Ah Jie fantasizes about winning the lottery. Slowly the viewer realizes that Ah Jie’s days are numbered

"Visually HELP ME EROS is dreamlike, perfectly fitting for the story of a man helplessly caught in a downward spiral. In one famous autoerotic scene, the woman from the hotline appears in a bathtub filled with eels. Other shocking, unforgettable visual moments involve the cracking open of an ostrich egg and a fish being savagely prepared on a TV cooking show. Lee has appeared in many films of Tsai Ming-Liang: REBELS OF THE NEON GOD; THE RIVER; THE HOLE; WHAT TIME IS IT THERE?; GOODBYE, DRAGON INN; THE WAYWARD CLOUD and I DON’T WANT TO SLEEP ALONE. HELP ME EROS is his second directorial effort. Lee is as self assured and unassuming in his directing as in his acting. Seeing him in person one could never imagine that he could have such a commanding screen presence. 4.5 cats

"HELP ME EROS screened at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival."

 
Michael says: "Lee Kang-sheng should be familiar to any fans of director Tsai Ming-liang: he has starred in all of the director's films. With HELP ME EROS, Lee offers his second directorial effort that while clearly influenced by the work he has done with Tsai, is a strong, elegantly-made film all on its own.

"Lee plays Ah Jie, a young man who finds himself living in poverty after he loses all the money he'd amassed on the stock market. He passes his days in a in a pot-induced haze smoking the spoils of his carefully tended closet-greenhouse. His cries for help are heard through the telephone helpline operator named Chyi, but he rejects her after finding out that she is overweight. He becomes involved with a betel nut girl (a fascinating Taiwanese cultural curiosity where young attractive, scantily-clad women operate neon-lit convenient store booths on busy roadways, delivering cigarettes and lottery tickets by sliding down fire poles to the waiting consumers) but as their sexual escapades become increasingly meaningless he pushes her away. The film ends with a remarkably filmed closing scene that, had we been able to stay for the Q&A I certainly would have asked him about filming. Lee could do worse than to follow in his mentor Tsai Ming-liang's footsteps, and if HELP ME EROS is any indication, he's well on his way. 4 cats"