Fri, Nov 14, 2008 - Page 16 News List

FILM REVIEW:Heartbreak at high school

Backed by an exceptional crew, first-time director Chen Hsiao-tse’s romance is a glossy-looking flick aimed at the teen market

By Ho Yi  /  STAFF REPORTER

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A feature debut by director Cheng Hsiao-tse (程孝澤), Miao Miao (渺渺) is the latest addition to the adolescent romance genre that has become a staple of contemporary Taiwanese cinema. What sets it apart from the pack is its big-name production team — Jet Tone Films (澤東電影), founded by Wong Kar-wai (王家衛), producers Stanley Kwan (關錦鵬) and Jacky Pang (彭綺華), editor William Chang Suk-ping (張叔平) and cinematographer Kwan Pun-leung (關本良).

The payoff of working with the heavyweights is a piece of well-executed, technically polished pop art that should prove popular with the youth market.

Ai (Sandrine Pinna), a sassy high school girl, meets Miao Miao (Ke Jia-ya, 柯佳嬿), the new exchange student from Japan, and is immediately attracted to the quiet, gentle newcomer. The two become best friends, palling around after school, sharing each other’s secrets and baking cakes together. Life is sweet, for a little while.

It doesn’t take long for Miao Miao to find first love in the form of sullen record store owner Chen Fei (Fan Chih-wei, 范植偉), who shuts out the world with a pair of headphones. Miao Miao enlists Ai’s help in stealing into the taciturn man’s life and winning his affections. Jealous and frustrated, Ai finds her feelings for her best pal go beyond friendship.

Miao Miao tells a solid story about friendship and first love. The well-cast Ke and Eurasian actress Pinna are keys to the film’s authenticity, as the rapport between them feels real and heart-felt. Pinna particularly stands out with her seemingly effortless performance. The sole male lead, Fan, however, struggles with a role that requires nothing more than a sulky face.

On the technical side, Chang’s smooth editing means the narrative structure is sound and clean-cut. The tasteful cinematography by Kwan Pun-leung (2046 and The Postmodern Life of My Aunt, 姨媽的後現代生活) lends a glossy look with an atmospheric palette of greens, purples, oranges and yellows. The urban landscapes of Taipei appeal lyrically, are saturated and rich in detail and stand in pleasing contrast to the clear and transparent hues of suburban life.

FESTIVAL NOTES

Miao Miao

(渺渺)

DIRECTED BY: Cheng Hsiao-tse (程孝澤)

STARRING: Ke Jia-yan (柯佳嬿) as Miao Miao, Sandrine Pinna (張榕容) as Ai, Fan Chih-wei (范植偉) as Chen Fei, Wu Kang-ren (吳慷仁) as Bei

RUNNING TIME: 83 minutes

LANGUAGE: in Mandarin with Chinese and English subtitles

TAIWAN RELEASE: Today


The script, however, doesn’t live up to the big names behind the film. Plot cliches are cloyingly overused and narrative devices intended to develop the characters sometimes feel manufactured and forced. And the film’s occasional tone of literary pomposity eats away at the realism generated by the “slices-of-life” acting and dialogue.

In other words, when the leads start citing Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and The Little Prince, the goose bumps the audience gets aren’t the kind the scriptwriters intended.

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