With Southbound Swallow, director Lien Jin-hua (連錦華) continues to delve into the differences, similarities, tensions and fears that exist on an individual level between people from China and those from Taiwan.
In So-called Friends (
In Southbound Swallow, the mood is more somber, telling the story of two Chinese women who have come to Taiwan under the guise of marriage. Despite having found relative prosperity, they struggle on the edge of economic survival, sinking by slow but inevitable steps into the seamy underworld of pimps and sexual favors.
The protagonist of Southbound Swallow is a young woman called Swallow, played by Chen Hsiang-chi (
Her role in Southbound Swallow harks back to the rather forlorn and inarticulate characterization of What Time is it There? It is the sort of role favored by Taiwanese directors, who have a fatal attraction to long, lingering shots of their female stars pondering the imponderables.
She is coupled in Southbound Swallow with Kuan Yin (
The relationship between these two characters is somewhat neglected in favor of a not very edifying connection between Swallow and a policeman Xiao Kao, played by Tuan Jun-hao (
Directed by: Lien Jin-hua
Starring: Chen Hsiang-chi (Swallow), terry Kuan (hsiao lan), Tuan Jun-hao (hsiao-Kao)
Running time: 85 minutes
Taiwan Release: Today
In Chinese with selected screenings in English
While the themes of Southbound Swallow are both pertinent and powerful, the lack of a strong story line weakens the overall impact of the film, with narrative convention sacrificed to the kind of structural tampering that serves more to confuse than enrich the film.
Lien, who studied film in Beijing, has been somewhat hampered by his lack of access to acting talent from China. While Chen does a perfectly adequate job, her character lacks definition as a mainlander, which the occasional use of Beijing slang cannot fully make up for.
Lien is already working on a third film about a Taiwanese and a Beijing man living on the fringes of society as China's capital races forward with preparations for the 2008 Olympic games.
"For this I will be using non-professional actors," he said. "So the people will be real." Never having had the chance to work with Chinese actors, Lien said he had no idea whether this would help or hinder the presentation.
Although it has many flaws, the film seeks to face problems with an admirable honesty that steers clear of romanticizing his topic and provides an interesting glimpse of what life might be like for Chinese immigrants staying in Taiwan, in a legal and emotional limbo.