Fri, Jun 24, 2011 - Page 16 News List

Movie review: 13th Taipei Film Festival (2011台北電影節)

Now in its 13th year, the annual event will showcase more than 135 films from around the world with a focus on cinema from the UK

By Ho Yi  /  Staff Reporter

Michael Powell, Black Narcissus.

Photo Courtesy of Taipei Film Festival

From Germany, France and Spain to Russia, Japan and Australia, the Taipei Film Festival (台北電影節) has explored many countries’ cinematic achievements. This year the spotlight is on the UK, a nation that has produced many filmmaking greats and continues to exert a big influence on the art form.

Alfred Hitchcock and David Lean are among the British maestros celebrated at the 23-day event. But instead of showing well-known classics, the festival will introduce audiences to lesser-known works such as Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps, a critically acclaimed thriller the director made before he moved to Hollywood in 1939. In the same vein, Lean’s timeless epics Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Doctor Zhivago (1965) are out, and his film Brief Encounter (1945), a social melodrama about a doomed extramarital love affair between two middle-class individuals, is in.

After his 1948 film The Red Shoes played to capacity audiences at the Golden Horse Film Festival (金馬影展) in 2009 and last year, Michael Powell returns to the big screen here. The festival will screen five of his classics including Black Narcissus, in which a group of nuns travels to a remote village in the Himalayas to civilize the locals. The mission comes unstuck, however, when the raw, primitive surroundings begin to affect the Bible bashers. Film history professors and students may find this 1947 movie interesting as a textbook example of how dark-skinned natives were often represented on the big screen as either ignorant children or the embodiment of sexuality.

From the 1960s come Tony Richardson’s A Taste of Honey and If … by Lindsay Anderson. Both directors were leading figures of British new wave film, a cinematic movement in the late 1950s and 1960s that depicted the day-to-day lives of the working classes, explored sociopolitical issues and challenged the social status quo. Regarded as a defining film of this period, A Taste of Honey follows a poor teenage girl who becomes friends with a lonely gay man after being left out in the cold by her alcoholic mother.

Festival Notes

What: 13th Taipei Film Festival (2011台北電影節)

When: Today to July 16

Where: Taipei Zhongshan Hall (台北市中山堂), 98 Yanping S Rd, Taipei City (台北市延平南路98號), Governor Cinemas (台北總督影城), 219, Changan E Rd Sec 2, Taipei City (台北市長安東路二段219號), Vieshow Cinemas Taipei Xinyi (信義威秀影城), 20 Songshou Rd, Taipei City (台北市松壽路20號)

Admission: Festival package of 10 tickets costs NT$1,699, weekday matinee screenings (before 6pm) cost NT$150 and weeknight and weekend screenings are NT$200, or NT$180 for students and people with disabilities. Tickets are available through ERA ticketing outlets or online at

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Mixing fantasy and reality, Anderson’s If … is considered an unforgettable rebel yell for its portrait of savage rebellion in a British boarding school. The film stars Malcolm McDowell, who went on to appear in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.

Spike-haired punks, skinheads and other rebels of the 1970s are brought to the fore in installation artist Isaac Julien’s feature debut Young Soul Rebels (1991), a coming-of-age story that examines youth culture in late 1970s London through the eyes of two friends, one effeminate and straight, the other macho, black and gay.

The festival will also showcase new faces of contemporary British cinema.

“The British film industry is closely related to Hollywood. But as far as I am concerned, British cinema has its distinctive ways of looking at things and choosing its topics, and I want to reflect them through the programs,” festival curator Steve Tu (塗翔文) said.

Highlights include Made in Dagenham, which uses comedy to bring to life the 1968 strike by female workers at the Ford Dagenham plant to protest against sexual discrimination, and The Arbor, for which director Clio Barnard turned his lens on late British playwright Andrea Dunbar, who grew up in a slum in northern England. Barnard’s genre-defying film mixes disparate elements such as interviews, documentary footage and staged scenes to tell the unconventional life of the female writer, who was only 19 when her play The Arbor premiered at London’s Royal Court Theatre in 1980.

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