Fri, Apr 26, 2002 - Page 7 News List

Mirroring the lovely absurdity of Taipei

Director Hung Hung focuses his camera on life in Taiwan's capital city

By Yu Sen-lun  /  STAFF REPORTER

Hung said that his idea for Human Comedy was taken from a painting based on The Book of 24 Filial Pieties. "When I looked at the paintings, these old stories seemed to have new meaning to me. They are all about a simple kind of obsession, and are similar to many people's experiences," he said.

The film is also Hung's tribute to late theater director Tian Chi-yuan (田啟元) who died of AIDS. In the film, four male performers rehearse a production of Tian's White Tide, which was based on the ancient Chinese story of White Snake, in which a man falls in love with and a beautiful serpent-woman who is eventually destroyed by a Buddhist priest. This controvertial play was Tian's allegory for discrimination against homosexuality. And it is now replayed in the film.

If the more dramatic Human Comedy offers a realistic look at Taipei, then the 71-minute digital film A Garden in the Sky looks at Taipei from a fantasy angle. Using a semi-documentary style, Hung used a street-interview situation to ask people about their relationships with their clothes.

In a department store, there are various faces and body types staring down the camera murmuring about their love-hate relationships with the clothes: brothers and sisters wearing hand-me-downs from their deceased mother, a cultural theorist talking about clothing fetishes, a man with an underwear fetish sharing his fantasy, and also Hung's father, a clothing manufacturer, discussing the rise and fall of Taiwan's clothing manufacturing industry.

Hung vividly presents the intriguing role of clothing and fashion, the frontispiece of an individual's emotions and desire, but also the thing which confines and limits their bodies. A Garden in the Sky looks like modern theater played out on human bodies as the stage.

The film is also like a carnival given Hung's poetic, experimental film style. Several shots represent the peculiar scenes in Taipei: the numerous shoe shops in Hsimenting; the crowded hillside residences near the outskirts of Taipei; the city soaked in rain and wind during the typhoon season; and the old houses on Taipei's Tihua street.

"I met Taiwanese people in France after screenings of the films. They all said they really wanted to go back to Taipei. It is indeed a lovely city," Hung said.

Both Human Comedy and A Garden in the Sky can be seen starting tomorrow at the Majestic Theater. Beginning May 4, Human Comedy will have English subtitles.

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