Wed, Dec 31, 2014 - Page 11 News List

YEAR IN REVIEW: Taiwanese Cinema

By Ho Yi  /  Staff reporter

Hung Chun-hsiu, The Lost Sea.

Photo courtesy of Hung Chun-hsiu

This year has seen a diversity of movies, with crafted genre flicks, films exploring the nation’s past and present and new works by established masters and emerging auteurs.

FEATURE FILM

Entertainment and history, for example, are intricately woven together in Yeh Tien-lun’s (葉天倫) Twa Tiu Tiann (大稻埕), a melodramatic comedy that looks back at the country’s past through the story of a young man traveling back in time to 1920s Taiwan, when the country was under Japanese colonial rule.

The same era is seen from a different perspective in Kano, which offers an optimistic take on Taiwan’s history, culture and identity through a sport that was introduced into the nation by Japan. Focusing on a high-school baseball team from Chiayi that wins respect at Japan’s prestigious national high school baseball championship in 1931, the film is not only as enthralling as a great underdog success story, but a grand audio-visual portrait of the relationship between Taiwan and Japan, designed to elicit big emotions.

Undeservedly underrated, It Takes Two to Tango (車拚) is the latest work by Wan Jen (萬仁), an important figure of the Taiwanese New Wave, which looks into the tangled relationship between Taiwan and China through a comedy about a couple separated by the Taiwan Strait. Unlike his contemporaries Hou Hsiao-Hsien (侯孝賢) and Edward Yang (楊德昌), Wang adopts a populist approach to filmmaking and is noted for an oeuvre that explores Taiwanese identity.

Meanwhile, drug abuse, poverty, land expropriation and other problems faced by rural communities are examined in an articulate and accessible manner in writer-director Lou Yi-an’s (樓一安) The Losers (廢物). A sense of defeat pervades the film, whether it is depicting the life of an aging farmer, Southeast Asian immigrant, disillusioned youth or an Aboriginal resident, unnamed and unrecognizable on her own land. But Lou deals with this raw anger intelligently, using dark humor to examine injustice and oppression. It mocks and makes the unbearable absurd and comic, while adorning the characters and their struggles with a new sense of warmth.

Inspired by the traumatic events of Typhoon Morakot, Kuo Chen-ti’s (郭珍弟) The Boar King (山豬溫泉) tells a deceptively quiet story of loss and rebirth, looking at human suffering and pain with considerable restraint. Solid performances by veteran actors Lu Yi-ching (陸弈靜) and Tsai Chen-nan (蔡振南) help bring out these themes.

An expressive comedy about a group of teenage boys and their whimsical plans to address their poverty, veteran director Yee Chih-yen’s (易智言) Meeting Dr. Sun (行動代號:孫中山) casts a lyrical and vigorous look into Taiwan’s social inequality through the eyes of the young. Alternating between farcical humor and emotional acuteness, the film is more fable than drama, approaching the complex social problems with lucid simplicity.

From the domain of genre cinema, up-and-coming genre director Lien Yi-chi (連奕琦) hands in Sweet Alibis (甜蜜殺機), a neatly executed suspense and police comedy that delivers finely crafted humor and makes brilliant use of its well-chosen cast led by Taiwanese actors Ariel Lin (林依晨) and Alec Su (蘇有朋) as the buddy cop duo. School bullying and adolescent angst are among the elements of suspense in Chang Rong-ji’s (張榮吉) second feature Partners in Crime (共犯), while Chen Hung-i (陳宏一) gives comedy a try in Design 7 Love (相愛的七種設計), an urban romantic drama about a group of beautiful people living in Taipei.

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