The good stuff
Worthy but flawed
Hong Kong has never had many dedicated arthouse directors, its film industry is more targeted at producing genre films. Stanley Kwan never really made a big impact on the international stage, he mostly remained in the shadow of Wong Kar-Wai and looking at The Island Tales, that's really not such a big surprise.
Seven people are trapped on an island after the government suddenly decides to quarantine it. The island is suspected of being the source of a dangerous virus going around. The situation creates an otherworldly atmosphere that causes the seven to reflect on their lives and their mutual relationships.
I had a pretty hard time figuring out what Kwan was trying to accomplish here. The cinematography was solid, but the soundtrack felt off, the dialogues were pretty cheesy and the entire concept never seemed to find its footing. It's a bit of an oddball film, there are definitely some interesting ideas here, but overall it doesn't really work that well.
I'm not Stanley Kwan's biggest fan, but I do appreciate most of his films. It's remarkable that even a director like Kwan seems to forgo his cinematic signature when doing a gay romance/drama. It appears to be some unwritten law that few directors dare to rebel against, it certainly explains why I'm generally not too taken with these films.
Lan Yu is a young country boy who moves to the big city to study. There he runs into Chen Handong, a rich businessman. The two have a steamy night, but when dawn comes Handong is facing a tough decision. Continue his comfy lifestyle and deny his love for Yu, or start a relationship and put his reputation on the line.
Lan Yu is a decent drama, but nothing more. If the romance and/or characters don't grasp you, there's really nothing here. The cinematography is bland, the soundtrack sparse, performances are middling. And the gay-themed romance is hardly anything that stands out these days. Pretty disappointing.