Ah-Ching and his group of friends have just finished their obligatory studies at school. Living in a small fishing village, waiting to conduct their mandatory military service, the boys have no real sense of direction with much of their time spent drinking, fighting and causing other forms of mischief. Ah-Ching is by far the most introspective of his friends and after being constantly berated by his mother for lack of ambition, Ah-Ching and two of his friends leave their small island home and head to the big city of Kaohsiung in search of work. Hsiao-hsien Hou's The Boys from Fengkuei is a coming of age tale that also depicts the changing social and economic in Taiwan. Ah-Ching is a character who lives in two separate worlds - the degenerate world of his friends and the traditional life which is often triggered by memories of his father when he was young. After he arrives in the big city, these two forces begin to clash more and more after Ah-Ching becomes infatuated with the girlfriend of one of his neighbors. This woman plays a very important part to Ah-Ching's transformation as ultimately he is left feeling more desolate and alone than before - a relationship that quite masterfully encapsulates puppy love. Ah-Ching and his friends are really symbolic of the youth culture even today - a confident bunch that beneath the swagger is naïve about the world around them. Wildly regarded as the first film in which Hou perfected his aesthetic, The Boys from Fengkuei is full of beautiful compositions, extended long takes and static shots which aid in creating this genuine sense of reality. Hou's The Boys from Fengkuei is a evocative and resonant film that touches on many different themes of adolescence including love, tradition and the constant balance of pain and joy which exists in growing up.
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