Sat, Nov 29, 2008 - Page 8 News List

Johnny Neihu's News Watch: Can Taiwan create a Dark Knight?

By Johnny Neihu 強尼內湖

Or something transgressive like Pink Flamingos: dung devouring, forcible artifical insemination, erotica with chickens, singing sphincters and the best documented egg fetish in the history of cinema. This is what life is about!

Or just the amazing, sick sight of Heath Ledger as the Joker in The Dark Knight lurching out of an evacuated hospital in a nurse’s uniform as the place he wired with explosives collapses behind him.

Where are such moments in Taiwanese cinema?

Filmmakers in the US who create this stuff end up being the doyens of the most powerful popular culture in the world.

What do we make, and where do our best filmmakers end up? Unless you’re Ang Lee (李安) — who may as well be American, professionally speaking — the best you can hope for is a cultural job with the government if the party in power likes you, or running the Spot repertory cinema if you’re Hou Hsiao-hsien (侯孝賢).

The good news is that people from this part of the world are gradually entering the bigger picture. I say that the Hong Kong sequence in The Dark Knight was more than sufficient for the film to qualify for the Showers. As a result, Edison Chen (陳冠希) — whose IHD (Insufficiently High Definition) auditions of wannabe superstarlets remain hot Internet items — should have been nominated for a Shower for Best Supporting Actor in an Extremely Brief and Non-Descript Role.

I want things to go further. Batman is a bona fide role model for a society filled with graft and controlled by fools and thieves. But to be Batman, you have to be prepared to get dirty when the filthy are in power — to move into the blurry zone between freedom fighter and vigilante, between patriot and terrorist, to see justice done. It requires a profound personal evaluation of what is right, what is wrong and what behavior can never be justified in the name of justice.

Somewhere out there in my beloved country I have no doubt such people exist. But I would bet you NT$3,600 in movie vouchers that not one of these people is in the film industry.

Oh, and the answer to the quiz: It was a trick question. No Taiwanese was nominated.

Got something to tell Johnny? Go on, get it off your chest. Write to dearjohnny@taipeitimes.com, but be sure to put “Dear Johnny” in the subject line or he’ll mark your bouquets and brickbats as spam.

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