Long-legged Girls (2004), Vũ Ngọc Đãng

Widely considered as the first Vietnamese movie that depicts same-sex affair, Long-legged Girls (2004), or Những cô gái chân dài, directed by Vũ Ngọc Đãng, is definitely worth the attention of any queer cinema enthusiasts.

So far as I am aware, this is also the first Vietnamese film that incorporates the female gaze. Within only a few seconds from the start, there comes the nude showering scene of a 20-year-old male model. This must be an intentional tactic to accommodate the taste of women viewers and lend the film a more commercial appeal, which could also be seen in Lost in paradise (2011).

In her essay Long-Legged Girls and the Transnational Circuits of Vietnamese Popular Culture, Lan Duong says that these objectifying images of young men and the depiction of gay desire effectively tests the boundaries of gendered behaviors and sexual norms of Vietnamese film industry.

It demonstrates how queer subjects in Vietnam, marked by class and always restricted as hetero-normative national subjects in the public space, are negotiating the prospect of cultural visibility and performing gender in different spaces.

To be honest, I was sexually aroused to the baby-butt smooth body of Hoàng (Minh Anh) when I watched this movie for the first time. However, it took me a while to latch on the behaviors of Khoa (Trương Thanh Long). At the age of 14, when “homosexuality” was still so strange of a concept to me, I did not even bother wondering what was going on between the two male characters. But when I watched it again many years later, especially after my first straight crushes, I could finally relate to Khoa’s feeling, and I think Trương Thanh Long had delivered it quite well, with a subtly exquisite acting level that hardly any other actors playing a gay man role have ever been able to reach.

to be continued