A Lock with No Key

A Lock with No Key (Rain Sun, 2019)

There are different kinds of queer stories out there. A Lock with No Key (把風, literally “Lookout”) isn’t about love, exactly, or the prettier, more progressive side of Taiwanese society that the country likes to showcase to the outside world.  The 2019 short film, recently released on GagaOOlala, is about a group of restless young punks who revel in mercilessly, violently bullying a high-school classmate, Ch’ien Wan-ta, and about the eponymous lookout of the group, Ch’en Chen-k’ang, who is drawn to this tight-lipped target for reasons he doesn’t quite seem to understand or accept. His various attempts to reach out or get closer to Ch’ien Wan-ta are almost always translated into the vernacular of taunts, the only language his friend group speaks, and thus fall flat. While he repeatedly intervenes to lessen the punishments doled out to him in ways that no one else can see, Ch’en Chen-k’ang never stops them—that is, until it’s finally the enabler’s turn to hit or get hit.

酷兒的故事有很多種。《把風》確切的說,表現的不是愛情,也不是台灣喜歡向國際表現帶著進步價值、光鮮亮麗的一面。 這部2019年的短片近期於GagaOOlala上架,描述了一群躁動不安,以對高中同學錢萬達施暴做樂的小混混。故事環繞著為其把風的陳振康,他自己的一種似乎無法理解或接受的原因,被這首口如瓶的受害者吸引。他多次想親近或更理解錢萬達,卻總是失敗的以嘲諷或恐嚇的話語表現,因為這是他身旁好友們唯一溝通方式。雖然他暗中利用不同方式干預以減輕對他的折磨,但陳振康從不阻止他們——是說,直到最終輪到縱容者自己必須打或被打的那天。

Online, the little buzz garnered by the short, which is wisely paced and reasonably well shot, seems to revolve around objections to the relentless physical, emotional, and even quasi-sexual abuse depicted—a sad-but-understandable byproduct of moralistic calls for “positive representation” that leave no room for the ethical ambiguities of actual queer people and experience. The film is not a traditional romance but instead a more realistic portrayal of simmering desire and unnamed fascination, and about the difficulty of unlocking better ways of getting close to someone at the tender, restless age of seventeen when the only tools one has are at one’s disposal are those provided by a culture rife with toxic masculinity.


It’s a tough watch, to be sure, but it’s also one with recognizably real characters and social realities—at least, that is, to those of us in Taiwan—and one that rewards attentive viewing. If you want another fluff film about impossibly good-looking guys who fall in love and live happily ever after (which, hey, I’m all for too), this isn’t it. If, however, you want a studied look at the messiness of longing and the difficulty of human connection in a dog-eat-dog world, then A Lock with No Key is for you. Its protagonist is hardly heroic, but as we learn by the story’s end, what we were told at the beginning is true: sometimes, it’s either him or it’s you.



Translator: Andy Liu

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