This three-person character study--a straight man, a straight woman, and a gay man--has for its title a bitterly ironic homage to love, using a phrase in French (that most romantic of languages) to convey a story, if it could be called that, which focuses sharply on two of its three characters, using the third as a foil for the other two.
The popular translation of the title is "Here's to love", or "Long live love"; it's a phrase that's used as much (if not more) in American circles as in French. But this is really a drama with sadness and loneliness as its two companion muses or driving forces. The gay man makes a semi-real attempt to kill himself; the woman, in one scene, cries alone, long and hard. They do these things because, it is clear, they cannot really express what love is, they cannot feel what love is, they cannot really connect to another person to give and receive love.
The third person, the straight man, blithely carried on his trade as an illegal street vendor, engaging in liaisons with the woman in the same unrented space in which the gay man himself hangs out. In one powerful scene, the two straights make love on a bed, directly underneath which the gay man engages in autoerotic behavior. It is clear that the gay man wants the straight man as much as the woman does.
The irony of the film transcends the title as well. The woman is a real estate agent, but has trouble finding paying customers; thus, her space is not valued. The gay man sells "columbaria" which are urns to house the ashes of the cremated dead; thus he is, in effect, a real estate agent for the dead while the straight woman is a real estate agent for the living. The gay man has no shortage of paying customers; the straight woman can't find one. Space reserved for the dead is more valuable than that for the living.
Tsai Ming-liang, the director, has to be counted as one of the most interesting contemporary working directors. Having now seen The Hole, Vive L'Amour, and Goodbye Dragon Inn, I can say without any doubt that he is a truly unique filmmaker, one to definitely keep an eye on.
Highly recommended. I will definitely see Tsai's other film The River as soon as I can.