Taiwan group Kou Chou Ching raps about movies.
Archive for the ‘Taiwan’ Tag
You are the Apple of my Eye (2011)
(Literal Chinese title: Those years when we chased that girl together)
dir. Giddens Ko
act. Ko Chen-tung, Michelle Chen
There are already plenty of reviews for this film out there so there likely isn’t much new that I can add but I enjoyed the film. Based on the director’s own autobiographical novel (he even gives the main character his real name) the universal themes of this work should easily resonate with those who have pursued that special girl but couldn’t quite attain her. Lest you think this is all tragic and bittersweet, think again as you can expect to see more than one group masturbation scene that will bewilder you. There is fair amount of amusingly crude humour due to the boys in the story although some jokes will probably not work depending on one’s sense of humour. Focus lies on the growing closeness between one of the boys, a childish rascal who hates studying that the serious, studious girl can’t help but grow to like. The actors that portray these two are very believable.
The film’s strength lies in capturing that youthful time in the past (in this case 90s Taiwan) when you just had carefree fun with friends while at the same time trying to solve the mystery of girls. The ending gets overly sentimental and lazy, literally repeating multiple scenes from earlier in the film (as if the audience has already forgotten) but does cleverly insert scenes that didn’t actually happen. They are scenes that could’ve happened in a parallel world if certain words had been spoken instead of withheld. These scenes and the hilarious incident that leads to them however do inevitably make for a satisfying conclusion.
On a random note, the English subtitles do sometimes embellish the Chinese lines giving a particular emphasis or interpretation that isn’t apparent. It’s not necessarily inaccurate but it is jarring when “very pretty, very pretty / hao mei, hao mei” is translated into some overly lyrical sentence that uses none of the two Chinese words. If you know Mandarin or only know English then this won’t bother you at all.
Starry Starry Night (2011)
dir. Tom Lin
act. Xu Jiao, Lin Hui min
It’s been a long time since I was so emotionally moved by a movie. In some respects, there isn’t anything terribly original but the strong acting and visuals make for a really magical experience. It’s more about emotion and imagination than story and plot.
The girl, Xiao Mei (Xu Jiao) really carries the movie and she has a very expressive face but can also be subtle and nuanced. Reading her emotions becomes engrossing in itself. The boy, Xiao Jie (Lin Hui min) is not bad in his role although he has much less to work with. Together they make a cute couple that are hard to resist. They both have or have had unpleasant experiences yet with each other they come to realize how lucky they are. Characters besides these two are vague in their characterization at best but one can interpret the movie as being from the young adolescent’s perspective from whom information is often withheld. Xiao Mei is often told to go to her room while her parents argue with French music obscuring their words.
The use of CG animation is aesthetically pleasing yet also represents the emotions of the characters. They are enchanting and whimsical for the most part but there is one particularly disheartening sequence of crumbling puzzle pieces that is executed effectively. European art also helps inspire some of the visuals which shouldn’t surprise considering the title is the same as that of a Vincent Van Gogh painting but with an extra Starry for good measure. The movie is based on an illustrated novel of the same name by Jimmy Liao, one which I hope to seek out and read.
This is a film where you might laugh at one moment only for tears to form at the next moment. Starry Starry Night was pure magic for me. I’ve read a couple less enthusiastic reviews that seem to expect more from the romance but for me it was an amazing piece of escapism with the right mix of real life and fairy tale.
To go on a tangent, I quite enjoyed hearing Kwai Lun Mei speak French although I should have not been surprised since apparently she studied in France at one point. She makes a brief appearance at the end as a grown up Xiao Mei.
To go on another tangent, there was a short film called Yukuharu (directed by Jason Gray) that opened before Starry Starry Night. It was the perfect compliment to the main feature with some laughs and sadness. Yukuharu was about a Japanese girl who has a boy admirer but encounters a devastating event at home.
Au Revoir Taipei (2010)
directed & written by Arvin Chen
starring Jack Kao, Amber Kuo
Au Revoir Taipei weaves various romances with some not so serious cop & criminal shenanigans in which Kai (Jack Kao) and Suzi (Amber Kuo) unexpectedly get tangled in. Sure they have to run quite a bit and dance too but it gives the two acquaintances an opportunity to bond over the course of one adventurous night. This feature length film was inspired by the short film Mei which the director, Arvin Chen, had made earlier which also starred Jack Kao.
The general tone of the film is whimsical and lightweight but the multiple plot threads that merge and separate throughout keep things interesting while the romantic aspects slowly but surely develop. It never gets confusing though and the intersecting plot threads and characters make for some comical moments. The characters are mostly likable but if one is expecting some deeper characterizations, they won’t find it here which is a bit disappointing. Even so the film is obviously not aiming for some deeper meaning or character analysis and that simplicity may actually be a plus for some viewers.
Au Revoir Taipei is a Valentine’s day card to not only its characters but to the city with well framed shots capturing its urban design and tasty late night eats. It’s a sweet, relaxing viewing experience that will tug at heart strings gently and tickle the funny bone but probably won’t linger in your mind much after the credits roll.
It’s already out on DVD in Asia but I assume it will come to North America soon.
directed & written by Chun Mong-Hong
starring Chang Chen, Kwai Lunmei
Mandarin, Taiwanese, Cantonese with English subtitles
Update (June 8, 2010): Now available on DVD!
The film starts with Chen Mo (Chang Chen) buying a cake on mother’s day for his wife (Kwai Lunmei) who’s waiting for him at home to eat dinner. Upon exiting the bakery, he finds his car blocked by another one which is double parked next to his. In fact, the plot’s unlikely and somewhat random developments happen because of a series of different cars which happen to only double park next to Chen’s car much to his annoyance. Each time Chen searches for the car’s owner, he encounters a new situation and set of characters. Chen meets an elderly couple, a barber with one working hand, a down on his luck tailor, a pimp and gangsters. Read the rest of this entry »