Edward Yang – Du li shi dai AKA A Confucian Confusion (1994)


Nominated for the Golden Palm in Cannes 1994.

I’ve just seen a marvelous film. Edward Yang’s little-seen and under-distributed A Confucian Confusion is that screwball comedy I long to see that for once is smart, engaging and jabs you where it hurts and tickles most.

As suggested by the title, it deals with the trials and tribulations of a motley of urbanites living in modern Taipei and their escalating moral decadence (or not?). Among them is the young and lovely Chen Shiang-Chyi.

The dialogue is just so fun to listen to. The scenes are so expertly staged. The humor so spot-on.

Over-the-top funny yet never losing its grip on pressing contemporary issues. Confusion is indeed an artful blend of artistry and entertainment. For an Edward yang film, this is in fact a rare sight. Continue reading

Ming-liang Tsai – Jiao You AKA Stray Dogs [+Extra] (2013)


A single father makes his meager living holding up an advertising placard on a traffic island in the middle of a busy highway. His children wait out their days in supermarkets before they eat with their father and go to sleep in an abandoned building. As the father starts to come apart, a woman in the supermarket takes the children under her wing. There are real stray dogs to be fed in Tsai’s everyday apocalypse, but the title also refers to its principal characters, living the cruelest of existences on the ragged edges of the modern world.

Stray Dogs is many things at once: minimal in its narrative content and syntax, as visually powerful as it is emotionally overwhelming, and bracingly pure in both its anger and its compassion. One of the finest works of an extraordinary artist. Continue reading

Chinlin Hsieh – Flowers of Taipei: Taiwan New Cinema (2014)



In 1982 a small group of Taiwanese filmmakers reinvented Asian cinema, among them, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Edward Yang. Travelling from Europe to Latin America to Asia, Flowers of Taipei sets out to assess the global influence of Taiwan New Cinema.

Taiwan – tropical Pacific island devoid of tourists; former plastic manufacturing powerhouse turned technology hub in just 20 years; not a fully-fledged country for the United Nations, yet the sole Chinese territory with a vibrant democracy.

In 1982, under severe martial law, amid the stormy climate of pre-democratization, a small group of Taiwanese filmmakers set out on a daring journey to discover their own identity, and in the process to reinvent Asian cinema. Unintentionally, these gutsy youngsters managed to offset the cheap-labor image of ‘Made in Taiwan’ by bestowing a cultural identity on their beloved homeland. Taiwan New Cinema not only inaugurated modern cinema in the Chinese world, it also secured itself a firm place on the world map of contemporary filmmaking. Continue reading

Hsiao-hsien Hou – Qian Xi Man Po AKA Millenium Mambo (2001)


Synopsis: Winner of the Grand Prix Technique at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival, Hou Hsiao Hsien’s MILLENNIUM MAMBO is a strikingly beautiful film set in Taipei’s hot nightclub scene. The remarkable Shu Qi stars as Vicky, a lost soul who hangs out… Winner of the Grand Prix Technique at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival, Hou Hsiao Hsien’s MILLENNIUM MAMBO is a strikingly beautiful film set in Taipei’s hot nightclub scene. The remarkable Shu Qi stars as Vicky, a lost soul who hangs out partying with her friends, smoking nonstop, and dancing and flirting. She lives with Hao-Hao (Tuan Chun-hao), but he doesn’t seem to excite her anymore, so she starts seeing an older gangster, Jack (Jack Kao), although the depth of the relationship is left purposely ambiguous. Continue reading

Hsiao-hsien Hou – Nanguo Zaijan, Nanguo AKA Goodbye South, Goodbye (1996)


After spending much of the decade making films about Taiwan’s complex and troubled history, Hou Hsiao Hsien turns his attention to its money-obsessed present with this gangster drama. Tattooed mobster, Kao (Jack Kao), and his quick-tempered, aptly named protégé, Flathead (Lim Giong), along with their girlfriends, Ying (Hsu Kuei-ying) and Pretzel (Annie Shizuka Inoh), are desperately trying to make it big. Their master plan is open a disco in Shanghai, but that scheme seems less and less likely with each call they get from their cell phone. Corrupt mainland potentates want a king’s ransom in kickbacks while Pretzel racked up a king’s ransom of debt herself at the mahjong table, prompting her to make a half-hearted suicide attempt. To make ends meet, these would-be entrepreneurs make a stab at swindling the government over swine — selling sows when they are supposed to be the more valuable studs. They wine and dine the farmers in rural backwater Chiayi only to get cut out of the deal and kidnapped by the corrupt police. (All Movie) Continue reading

Midi Z – Bing Du aka Ice Poison (2014)


Faced with diminishing returns on his harvest, a poor young farmer in Myanmar pawns his cow for a moped and seeks alternative income as a taxi driver.
Among his first fares is a woman who has returned home for her grandfather’s funeral and is making a new start after escaping an arranged marriage in China.
Together, they are lured into one of the few lucrative business opportunities available in the area: selling “ice poison” (crystal meth) around town… Continue reading

Edward Yang – Guling jie shaonian sha ren shijian AKA A Brighter Summer Day (1991)


It’s only natural that Edward Yang’s A Brighter Summer Day begins with a shot of a barely-lit light bulb. On the set of a movie, a director reprimands an actress for harping on the color of her dress. “This is a black and white film,” he says, one of many references to the symbolic darkness that overshadows the milieu of the film. A Brighter Summer Day is itself in color, but it may as well be monochrome. Much of the film’s action takes place at night or inside dimly lit interiors, and it’s not unusual for the characters to be confronted by light and its almost political implications. Some of the best images in the film (young boys staring at a rehearsal from a theater’s rooftop; a basketball bouncing out of a darkened alleyway) pit light against dark—a fascinating dialectic meant to symbolize a distinctly Taiwanese struggle between past and present. From weapons to watches, objects similarly speak to the present. Like the light, these objects are constant reminders that the past can’t be ignored and must be used to negotiate the present. Continue reading