The Story of the Stone (2018)

The Story of the Stone
Director: Starr Wu
Writer: Starr Wu
Based on: Cao Xueqin‘s novel Dream of the Red Chamber
Cast: Aric Chen, Etsen Chen, J.R. Chien, Golden Elephant, Adam Lin, Sky Qing Tian Li, Daniel Thai, Joe Liu, Stephen Rong, Dean Tang, Lear Chen, Ryan Hsieh
Part of: Transition Queer Film Festival
Seen on: 21.11.2020

Content Note: suicide, fat hate

The Stone Bar is the gay bar in Taipei, and its newest waiter is Josh. Josh (Golden Elephant) is pretty and fresh, so he has his pick of men, but he would like to win florist Lin’s (Aric Chen) heart. Only Lin is still reeling from losing his last boyfriend to Aids and really can’t fathom having a new relationship. In his frustration, Josh turns to Sean (J.R. Chien) who is more than happy to have him. But amidst promiscuity and drugs, drama is pre-programmed.

The Story of the Stone did not work for me at all. I tried very hard to get into the film, but it was completely confusing and about halfway through I just gave up following anything that happened on screen.

The film poster showing Josh (Golden Elephant) standing half-naked in a bar filled with half-naked men. Everything is bathed in pink light.

I am not familiar at all with the very famous 18th century novel this film is a modernization of. Maybe if I had been, I would have understood what was happening, but really, a film has to stand on its own two feet, even when it’s based on a novel, so that’s really no excuse. Although I applaud the idea of taking an 18th century classic and making it gay. Here for that part of it.

But ultimately the film is a whole lot of half-naked guys taking drugs and fucking each other and I was constantly confused about who has what relationship with whom. Are those two just fucking or are they a couple? Is this a jealous reaction for one guy or for the other? And there are just so many pretty boys, all fit, all with a similar hairstyle, all usually only half-dressed, floating through the film, I kept wondering just who was who in general. Not the best starting point if you want to tell a highly emotional love story.

Josh (Golden Elephant) talking to Lin (Aric Chen).

There is also an intensely uncomfortable scene where the only guy who doesn’t look like your standard model but is fat begs Josh to fuck him, since he’s fucked everybody else basically, and it’s his turn. The scene shows the fat guy to be pathetic and also shows in detail to what tricks Josh has to resort to get an erection at all. And I know that body shaming and fat hate is somewhat of an issue in gay circles (at least here it is), but this scene was not a reflection on that at all, but a reproduction of the fat hate that had me cringing in my seat.

The movie claims to be an honest portrayal of gay life in Taipei. Unsurprisingly as a European woman, I don’t have a single clue how that life looks like. After seeing the film, my impression is that it’s every stereotype about gay guys in a confusing package. I’m not sure that this is really the impression I should have walked away with.

Josh (Golden Elephant) comforting another man in a club.

Summarizing: a mess.

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