Under the Hawthorn Tree (山楂樹之戀)
Between his flashy epics, Zhang Yimou (張藝謀) returns to austere simplicity with Under the Hawthorn Tree (山楂樹之戀), a tale of young love set during China’s Cultural Revolution in the early 1970s. It begins with high school student Jing (Zhou Dongyu, 周冬雨) being sent to the countryside to learn from peasants as part of a re-education campaign. During her stay in the village, Jing falls in love with Sun (Shawn Dou, 竇驍), an educated young man working in a nearby geological unit. After Jing returns to the city, the two are torn between their blossoming romance and the discretion imposed upon them by the conservative and turbulent times. Based on the novel Hawthorn Tree Forever (山楂樹之戀) by Aimi (艾米), the film paints a portrait of innocence with utter sweetness, taming sexual passion with modesty and repression. Though the film hints at the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution, political overtones are mostly subdued by nostalgia for innocence lost and the transience of youth.
Yet another adaptation of a classic Victorian novel with quaint costumes and funny mannerisms of speech might sound a little too familiar, but this version of the doomed romance between Jane and Mr Rochester created by the young American Japanese director Cary Joji Fukunaga takes the story by the neck, shakes it out from the clasp of well-mannered British domestic drama, and puts it firmly back on the wild Yorkshire moors where passion and madness run side by side. The two stars, Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender, are much more physically attractive than their characters are described in Charlotte Bronte’s novel, but their performances are strong enough to make up for it.
This oddball drama, which mixes fable and fact, is a fine stage on which great character actors including the likes of Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek and Bill Murray can go through their paces. There is a solid dose of sometimes corny sentiment, and the tale of a backwoods hermit (Duvall) who arranges his own funeral at which various long-hidden secrets are revealed sometimes wanders off track into woolly fantasy. That said, the whole concept is carried off with grace and intelligence. This is decidedly a small movie that relies on the presence of its leads to carry it, and Duvall is so memorable that it is easy to forgive the movie’s many faults.
SP: The Motion Picture
The first of a two-part motion picture based on a hugely successful Japanese television cop drama titled SP, referring to Security Police. SP: The Motion Picture is a big-budget action film with some spectacular car chases and other set pieces, and stars pop idol Okada Junichi as supercop Inoue Kaoru. Kaoru routinely uses his extraordinary abilities to fight crime, but his insubordinate ways get him no love from his superiors. When he gets caught up in a terrorist plot hatched deep within government, even his almost superhuman gifts fail to keep him out of the firing line.
Umizaru 3: The Last Message
A movie about coast guards and workers trapped in a natural gas plant after it has been damaged by a typhoon might be a little close to current events in Japan for comfort. Umizaru 3: The Last Message takes an unabashedly heroic perspective on the work of coast guard rescue divers, and in the preliminary sequences when divers undergo their grueling training, the film has strong echoes of The Guardian with Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher. As the gas plant becomes increasingly unstable, the government faces the option of sealing it off, with all those inside. Some pretty heavy-handed melodrama follows.
Until this summer, when the idea of hiking the length of the island first occurred to me, I didn’t even know that Cijin (旗津) had been a peninsula until 1967. That’s when diggers and dredgers severed Cijin from Taiwan’s “mainland,” because the authorities wished to create a southern entrance to Kaohsiung’s fast expanding port. The island is just under 9km long, but a bit of research quickly convinced me that a south-to-north trek wasn’t a good idea. The southern third of Cijin is dominated by container-lifting cranes, warehouses and other facilities off-limits to the public. Dunhe Street (敦和街) forms the boundary between
As if the climbs and views and snacks and companions of cycling in Taiwan aren’t sufficient, the GPS-generation of route-planners are now using apps such as Strava and Endomondo to create works of art as they ride. One such is nicknamed the Dove Road of Sijhih (汐鴿路), a 25km ride that follows the riverside bike path from the Nangang-Neihu Bridge (南湖橋) to New Taipei City’s Sijhih District (汐止), climbs around 400m up the Sijhih-Shiding Road (汐碇路), before dropping back down past Academia Sinica to generate a very dove-like pattern. Originally called Kippanas by indigenous Ketagalan people and transliterated into Hoklo (more commonly
Community-supported agriculture (CSA) is a way urban households can obtain healthy produce, while helping to build a more sustainable farming sector in Taiwan. King Hsin-i’s (金欣儀) transformation from advertising copywriter to social entrepreneur began in 2008, when she visited a rice farmer who practiced pesticide-free agriculture. “He explained that we have to leave space for other species. At the same time, I realized that while big companies have budgets to spread their messages, farmers have few chances to tell the public about their beautiful concepts,” she recalls. Inspired, she quit her job and traveled throughout rural Taiwan for a year. King went
If ever there was a reason to be inside on Mid-Autumn Festival, even for just an hour or so, while still celebrating the natural world, Cheng Tsung-lung (鄭宗龍) has provided one with his first full-length work for Cloud Gate Dance Theatre (雲門舞集) as artistic director, Sounding Light (定光). Judging by the excerpt performed for the press last week, Cheng shows he can be just as minimalistic as his mentor, troupe founder Lin Hwai-min (林懷民), while still forging his own unique path. Just as he did with last year’s Lunar Halo (毛月亮), his final work as director of Cloud Gate 2 (雲門2), Cheng