Recent Taiwanese cinema has almost had a monopoly on the kind of angst that permeated so many European art films of the 1960’s. The anomie that envelops Lin Cheng-sheng’s ”Murmur of Youth” in a mist of melancholy has everything to do with the collision of traditional and modern values in a boom economy. The film follows two college-age girls, both named Mei-li, from different backgrounds, who end up working side by side as ticket takers in a movie theater in a teeming shopping arcade.
Chen Mei-li (Rene Liu) is middle-class, and Lin Mei-li (Tseng Jing) comes from a poorer family whose three generations, including her dying grandmother (Grandma Pi), share the same squalid quarters. ”Murmur of Youth” concentrates on the problems of Lin, a mediocre student troubled by an unrequited love, who drops out of school and drifts into her boring, dead-end job.
”Murmur of Youth,” which is being shown at the Museum of Modern Art this evening at 6 and tomorrow night at 8:30 as part of New Directors/New Films, has two distinct halves. The first part segues back and forth between the two Mei-lis, evoking their post-adolescent alienation. The second and sharper half tracks their developing friendship in which bubbly girl talk quickly escalates into an exchange of intimate details. Where Lin is shy and insecure, Chen is a mischievous prankster. When Lin idly fantasizes about a young man outside the booth, Chen approaches him and makes cheeky small talk.
As the movie skillfully evokes the desperate bonding of two people stuck in close quarters, the claustrophobic ticket booth becomes a metaphor for its characters’ pent-up turmoil. When Lin breaks down in tears over her unrequited love and Chen’s comforting embraces turn suddenly amorous, the budding friendship is threatened by the confusing rush of eroticism.
Lin’s sexual confusion is underscored by the amazing history of the dying grandmother, who recalls being a brutalized child bride and later a teen-age prostitute who married one of her clients. As this proud, fearless old woman slips away, she begins to have conversations with her dead husband, whom she believes has come to fetch her.
”Murmur of Youth” locates Lin’s angst in the unbridgeable gap between the old woman’s ancestral faith and the modern world, whose clamor drowns out the reassuring voices of familial spirits.
1.63GB | 1 h 44 min | 848×464 | mkv