“Why do you never kiss me?” Mark (played by Xiao Ke) asks his boyfriend Li Ting (Etsen Chen) in Fan Popo’s short film Floss, which will be screened at the San Francisco International LGBTQ+ Film Festival. “I just did,” Li Ting replies impassively. “No, I mean French kissing.” By now, viewers have learned that Li Ting has a strange secret: he’s obsessed with teeth, his own as well as his partner’s, but above all by the delicate threads used to clean them, even sneaking off to rummage through the trash to recover a string of floss used by Mark. What follows suggests that his interest goes beyond oral hygiene to something much deeper.
Fan, a Chinese filmmaker, is probably best known for his wholesome documentaries Mama Rainbow (2012) and Papa Rainbow (2016), both of which explore the journeys of parents coming to accept their children’s sexual and gender identities in a society where family and face remain paramount. Fan is hardly new to fiction, and his 2019 piece The Drum Tower, about the budding connection between an introverted student and a transgender shopkeeper in Beijing, was recently screened in Taipei as part of a queer shorts series. Yet Floss is light years away from his earlier documentary works in form and subject matter. In contrast to his earlier themes of coming out and eventual parental acceptance, Floss explores the abject objects of our desire and the often-unacknowledged loneliness of love.
“为什么都不亲我？”Mark（由肖可演）问他的男朋友李廷（陈彥廷饰）。这是范坡坡的短片《线》中的一幕，该片刚刚在旧金山国际 LGBTQ + 电影节上映。“我亲了呀。” 李廷无动于衷地回答道。“没碰到舌头你都算？”看到这里，观众已经知道李廷有一个奇怪的秘密：他对牙齿有恋物癖，无论是他自己的牙齿或是爱人的牙齿，尤其是用来清洁牙齿的细腻牙线，他甚至会偷偷在垃圾里翻找出 Mark 用过的牙线。接下来的画面让人发现，他对牙线的迷恋早已超越口腔卫生，而是一种更深层次的迷恋。
中国电影制片人范坡坡最为人熟知的作品是他的纪录片系列《彩虹伴我心》（2012）和《彩虹老爸》（2016），这两部影片探讨了在一个以家庭和面子为重的社会，父母逐渐接受孩子的性取向和性别认同的故事。而剧情片这一体裁对范坡坡来说也并不陌生，在 2019 年的作品《鼓楼》中，他讲述了北京一个内向的学生与跨性别店员相识的故事，并于最近在台北酷儿电影节短片单元放映。然而，无论是题材还是体裁方面，《线》都与他早期的纪录片作品截然不同。他早期的作品中，大多为出柜和获得父母认同的主题，而《线》却是在探讨人类欲望中那些令人难以启齿的话题，以及常常被人们所忽略的、爱情中的孤独感。
In Floss, we follow the pair as they go about their lives. On the outside, they’re no different from any other couple: they dine out, walk the dog, watch movies together, and have sex. But something is simmering inside Li Ting. When Mark buys flosser picks rather than thread floss, Li Ting can’t hide his dissatisfaction. During intercourse, he shows no interest in emotional intimacy. He concocts excuses to remove himself from situations where these might be expected. Mark, painfully aware of all this, tells him at one point, “I don’t think you like me at all.” Li Ting, in return, says nothing.
在《线》这部影片里，镜头跟随着这对同性情侣的生活轨迹。从表面看来，他们和其他情侣没什么区别：他们一起外出就餐、遛狗、一起看电影、做爱。但李廷的内心却在酝酿着什么。当 Mark 最后要买牙线棒而不是牙线时，李廷无法掩饰住自己的不满。两人做爱时，他也不会表现出对情感亲密关系的兴趣。当他需要作出情感回应时，他总是找各种借口来逃避。意识到这一切的 Mark 痛苦地说：“我觉得你根本都不喜欢我。”对此，李廷一言不发。
“I studied scriptwriting in film school, so making fiction films is what I always wanted to do,” says Fan. “But when I graduated, I thought I could use documentary filmmaking as a way to practice. Now this ‘practice’ has been going on for almost ten years.” He freely admits that Mama Rainbow and Papa Rainbow presented hopeful images of what parent-child relationships in “rainbow families” could and perhaps should look like, rather than balanced depictions of the current state of queer life and rights in China. But he also finds himself bored with the formulaic coming-out stories that tend to dominate LGBTQ film festivals, important though they are. “I didn’t want to do another coming-out story,” he says. “I wanted to do something new.” And, to his credit, Floss’s central motif—sexual obsession with dental floss—is certainly novel.
Its novelty, however, isn’t for shock value but instead serves as a point of entry for examining contemporary relationships. Mark’s apartment is decorated with pictures of a happy couple that bear little resemblance to the sullen pair eating their dinner in silence and passing time with gory films. The viewer wonders if something has shifted, or if the images that couples tend to display for themselves and the world are illusory from the start. “Does being in a relationship actually make you happier?” Fan asks. “From my observations, often it’s the opposite.” Even during their occasional bouts of vigorous but passionless sex, the two appear worlds apart, as Li Ting averts his gaze from Mark and is later haunted by dreams of being bound by web-like, incandescent floss.
“我在电影学院学过编剧，因此拍摄剧情片一直是我想做的事情。”范坡坡说，“但是毕业的时候，我觉得可以通过拍摄纪录片来练习一下。到现在为止，这种‘练习’已经持续了将近十年。”他承认，《彩虹伴我心》和《彩虹老爸》所展现的是酷儿家庭中可以实现且应该有的理想亲子关系，但这并非目前中国酷儿群体实际的生活和权利状况。但是，他也表示，自己已经厌倦了 LGBTQ 电影节中那些公式化的出柜故事，尽管讲述这样的故事也很重要。他说：“我不想再拍关于出柜的故事。我想拍一些新的题材。”因此，在《线》中，他选择了以牙线的性迷恋为题材，这毋庸置疑是一个新颖的题材。
然而，短片的新颖题材并不纯粹为了吸引眼球，而是旨在审视当代的情感关系。 在 Mark 的公寓里摆放着一对幸福夫妻的照片，这张照片与一对闷闷不乐、沉默不语地吃晚餐，看恐怖电影消磨时光的情侣形成了鲜明的对比。这让观众不禁开始思考，是不是有些事情已经发生了变化，或者说，这对情侣表面看来的样子，从一开始是不是只是做给自己和世界看的，是虚幻的。范坡坡提出问题：“处于情侣关系中真的能让你更开心吗？从我的观察来看，事实往往相反。”连在他们偶尔激烈而冷静的性爱时，两人看起来也像是处在不同的世界里，李廷总是避开 Mark 的注视，而那被蛛网般的牙线紧紧箍住的梦魇，也始终萦绕着他。
Li Ting’s obsession with floss invites reflection on the highly private, idiosyncratic nature of fantasy and the power it exerts, particularly when it concerns some aspect of reality that is typically forgotten or forbidden in daily life. Indeed, the line between desire and disgust can be vanishingly thin, with the same thing triggering both at different times: sweat, spit, an unwashed body—even, in Li Ting’s case, blood and bits of masticated food. But awareness of the abject nature of one’s fetish, its crossing into the territory of the undiscussable, the gross, or the weird, also means shame and its attendant silence. Just how much of ourselves do we conceal from the person closest to us? That is the central question Floss invites audiences to chew on.
While much recent mainstream LGBTQ cinema shies away from the less savory aspects of love and lust, Fan centers on a fetish in order to question the one-size-fits-all model of the monogamous couple. Sometimes, your dentist understands what your lover just can’t. Like Li Ting, Fan is obsessed with what lies beneath the pearly-white exterior of relationships, fixing his camera on something disavowed and decidedly more interesting. With a studied restraint worthy of its neurotic protagonist, Floss strings the viewer along until it reaches an uncomfortable truth: like it or not, we can only ever have part of our partners.
虽然最近的主流 LGBTQ 电影回避了爱情和欲望中不那么美好的方面，但范坡坡通过恋物癖这个题材，进而质疑一夫一妻制下的一体适用模式。有时候，可能你的牙医比你的爱人更能理解你。范坡坡和短片中的李廷一样，痴迷于隐藏于美好的情感关系表面之下的真相。他将镜头机对准那些被拒绝又更有趣的事物上，《线》和其主角一样克制，将观众步步引向一个令人不适的结论:无论如何，我们只能拥有自己爱人的一部分。
Floss will next be shown at Frameline43, San Francisco’s International LGBTQ+ Film Festival.
2961 16th St.
San Francisco, California
June 26th, 2019
Contributor: Brandon Kemp
Chinese Translation: Olivia Li