As the second largest film festival in Taiwan, the Taipei Film Festival (TFF) has, from last year, set to position itself as a specialized film festival aiming for a focused selection and quality films -- a film festival about cities and the relations between cities and the type of cinema these cities can inspire. Now in its fifth year, the result is a solid treat of film screenings, with 70 films, most of them from Japan and Australia.
Starting Sunday, the two-week event will showcase the cinematic glamor of two cities -- Kyoto and Melbourne -- which have been selected as the focus cities for this year. The former has long been the capital of Japan's film industry. And the latter is the birthplace of many Australians who have made their mark on the film industry.
The best news for the film festival is the massive support given to it by Taipei's movie fans. On the day ticket sales opened two weeks ago now, the special "movie passport" (which allows viewers to enjoy any film screenings for just NT$2,000) sold out within an hour. Individual tickets for a number of high-profile screenings, such as Edward Yang's (楊德昌) A One and a Two (一一), chosen as the closing film of the festival, sold out almost as quickly.
Other highly anticipated films include those by Japanese master Yasujiro Ozu, Equinox Flowers, and two classic Australian films by Peter Weir, The Cars That Ate Paris and Picnic at Hanging Rock.
More contemporary works include young Australian director Tony Ayres' Walking on Water and the controversial 11'09"01 ? September 11, a critical reflection on the Sept. 11 incident through nine-minute shorts by 11 major directors.
"The Golden Horse Film Festival is a festival with a general theme, presenting around 100 films each year. But the TFF is about cities, with around 60 to 70 films. This may not be that special but it's probably the only festival in the world that focuses on cities," said Wen Tien-hsiang (聞天祥), the festival's programmer.
Kyoto versus Melbourne, East versus West and old generation versus young generation filmmakers are the main themes of the fifth TFF. The program will screen films in seven sections, the first two contrasting the works of old and young Japanese filmmakers. The third and fourth sections contrast old and new Australian films.
"Kyoto is a city very much like Paris, very cinematic, and its city culture has been the basis of many film stories. Hundreds of films are set in the city," said Wen.
In the section entitled Kyoto: Capital of Japanese Cinema, movie lovers can embrace the classical elegance of Japanese film from the 1930s through to the 1960s. Masters like Akira Kurosawa, Yasujiro Ozu and Kenji Mizoguchi all began their careers in Kyoto. The section brings together four classic films by Mizuguchi, who was known for his excellent depictions of women. His 1952 film Saikaku: Life of a Woman, won a Silver Lion at the 1952 Venice Film Festival. In this section, you can also see a different kind of Kurosawa film, No Regrets for My Youth, which was made before Rashomon. There is also the classic cinematic version of Yukio Mishima's The Temple of the Golden Pavilion by Kon Ichikawa.
Compared with their predecessors, the works in the Japanese New Current section can be seen as young rebels fighting against the tranquil and elegant sytle of moviemaking used by the older generation. All 11 films in the section are independent films.