Directed by Zero Chou
Though critics have picked up on the Sapphic aspects of Spider Lilies, the story has more important themes and motifs, such as love, loneliness, family and the lives of the weak and marginalized.
Jade and Takeko are two young, troubled women, both haunted by their past, who are reunited by chance. Jade (Raine Yang), makes a living performing via webcam for online voyeurs, but her private life is occupied by memories of a kind-hearted friend who helped her through her lonely childhood.
Meanwhile, this very girl, Takeko (Isabella Leong), makes a living as a reclusive tattoo artist. Takeko is haunted by the death of her father. The spider lily design that hangs on her parlor is a tattoo that was quite literally cut from the flesh on his back after he died while trying to save her younger brother from an earthquake. Takeko was away that night, on a date with her partner, and has never been able to forgive herself since.
The style of the film, from the dialogue to the visuals, is delicate and clear. Director Zero Chou uses the tattoo to symbolize a scar – physical proof of pain and injury – and in doing so asks what it takes to escape the shadow of the past. As the story progresses, we see that love and time are the only remedy for this kind of guilt and sadness. As a result, the film's conclusion is certainly more hopeful than that of Butterfly, another Chinese film to which Spider Lilies has been (inevitably) compared. However, the real shining light is Yang's illuminating performance as sad-eyed cyber temptress Jade.
(That's Beijing by Alice Wang July 15, 2007)