This film has several titles. Sometimes it is blandly translated as Lost in Paradise, but the literal Vietnamese title is Rebellious Hot Boy and the Story of Cười, The Prostitute and the Duck, which is much more pleasing. Like many queer films, it is often discussed in terms of ‘breaking new ground’ and being the first film from a particular country to represent queer people at the centre of the story. At GQC, we’re interested in the frequency of that particular rhetoric, but as the wacky title suggests, there’s a lot more going on in this 2011 film by Vũ Ngọc Đãng than a worthy social problem narrative. Its excessive narrative includes a gay love triangle, theft and coercion, a hooker with a heart of gold, a gentle mentally handicapped person and, of course, an adorable duck.
This frame suggests something of the film’s self-consciously Sirkian melodrama: innocent country boy Khoi has been conned out of his life savings by Evil Gay Dong, beaten up and reduced to living on the streets. Here, he’s been rescued by Lam, Dong’s ex-boyfriend and former partner in crime, now himself abandoned (left to look after the cats on his own!) and feeling guilty about his behaviour. The window bars offer a melodramatic commentary on their situation––trapped by Dong’s machinations and, more than that, by the limitations of life as a gay man in Saigon. It may be a function of homophobia that we need an Evil Gay character but Dong’s gleeful villain enables all sorts of intimacies to appear in his wake.