Directors Chen Hung-i and Muni Wei’s gender-fluid screen reinterpretation of Shakespeare’s As You Like It (now As We Like It) is a colourful, bold, fresh and often messy treat of a movie that pushes boundaries with unbridled joy.
Made with an all-female lead cast (a nod to Taiwanese opera, and to the performance history of all-male Shakespearean productions), As We Like It moves the action to a futuristic Taiwanese city where Rosalind (Puff Kuo) must find her missing father, The Duke, in order to safeguard the future of his company. While disguised at a Street Fighter inspired boxing match she meets Orlando (Aggie Hsieh) and he is instantly smitten. What follows is a series of romantic vignettes and complications that take inspiration from Shakespeare’s text but are unique to this cinematic vision.
And what a vision it is, frantically blending 2D animation into scenes—à la a tripped out Mary Poppins—along with the aforementioned Street Fighter-styled boxing match, cityscapes full of eyes, and even emergency fireworks to call the police. This is a near-future world of gender-fluid expression and visual imagination.
Shakespeare’s words are ever-present, in the dialogue, text captions, billboards, and song lyrics woven through the narrative, and while the play’s original gender politics are upended and reworked, they are also oddly dampened by the casting. The film, like the play, ends with very traditional marriages, while the casting is all-female, the gender politics end up a little too heteronormative.
Perhaps more inviting is the vision of Ximending (the new Forest of Arden) as an Internet-free, “slow” community. Orlando takes work with a bike courier company called Slow Express, while Celia at first frets that she won’t be able to find a boyfriend without using her futuristic smartphone. The beauty of slow processes (growing plants, making parchment, manual letter pressing) are almost fetishized here as the dehumanizing effects of modern technology are rejected so people can fully embody their authentic selves.
As We Like It is a lot to take in and not all the pieces work together seamlessly, but it is told with such joy and energy it’s hard not to fall under its spell.
By Chad Armstrong
The 20th New York Asian Film Festival runs August 6th – August 22nd 2021. As We Like It screens on Tuesday August 17th at 6pm at Lincoln Center’s Virtual Cinema, available until August 22nd at 6pm. For more details, tickets, and passes head to the NYAFF website.