Taiwan

Kang-sheng Lee – Bang bang wo ai shen AKA Help Me Eros (2007)

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The literal translation of the Taiwanese title is ‘Help Me, God of Love’, since Eros is an artifact of Greece-Roman mythology. The exclamation is a wry reference to the film’s comically cynical perspective on human relationships, in which a wide variety of unlikely subjects – food, marijuana and live eels, amongst others – become substitute objects of comfort and affection for the protagonists. The plea for help is also a strong theme in the form of the suicide hotline. Read More »

Hsiao-Hsien Hou – Lian lian feng chen aka Dust in the wind (1986)

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Dust in the Wind is a remarkable film, and one which will, no doubt, reward multiple viewings. Like most of the films of Hou Hsiao Hsien, viewers will be divided into two, sharply opposed camps.

The main characters in the film are two high-school students. The first is Wan, who – seeing his village as a dead-end career-wise, decides to leave their home town to go to Taipei to find work, intending to complete his education via night-school. His girlfriend Huen also leaves for Taipei after graduation. The other personages are family members, employers, friends and co-workers. Read More »

Hsing Lee – Qiu Jue AKA Execution in Autumn (1972)

Plot
Pei Gang (played by Ou Wei) was earlier sentenced by the magistrate to death for committing 3 cruel murders,even though he claimed that the killings were acts of self defense. We learnt that Pei Gang was in fact a spoiled brat and a bully. He also had a doting grandmother who promised that she’ll get him out of any trouble, including death row. Pei will not be executed until next Autumn, which gave him about one year’s time. When all efforts to get him out seem to fail, what will his next course of action be? The central theme of the story is not so much about his escape, but rather the transformation of this man from evil to good, from running away and blaming others into accepting responsibility for his actions and eventually, accepting his fate… Read More »

Hsiao-Hsien Hou – Feng er ti ta cai AKA Play While you Play AKA Cheerful Wind (1981)

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The pop-star leads from Hou’s first feature, Cute Girl, are reunited in the director’s follow-up, a brisk work of bubble-gum romance that begins to experiment with the rules of the genre. This time, Taiwanese singing sensation Feng Fei-fei plays Hsing-hui, a trendy photographer visiting a seaside village in Penghu with her successful boss/fiancé. When she happens upon a flute-playing medic blinded in an ambulance crash (Kenny Bee), sparks fly, songs are sung, and she’s left with the tough decision of who to say “I do” to. Despite the eye-rolling premise, Hou infuses the film with enough formal ingenuity (long takes, telephoto lenses, on-location shooting) that a case can be made for its auteurial significance. Read More »

Ming-liang Tsai – Ni de lian AKA Your Face (2018)

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Radically rethinking the tired talking-heads template, Tsai Ming-liang’s latest digital experiment turns the human face into a subject of dramatic intrigue. Comprised of a series of portrait shots of mostly anonymous individuals (Tsai devotees will no doubt recognize his long-time muse, Lee Kang-sheng), the film shrewdly deemphasizes language while reducing context to a bare minimum. In their place, the beauty and imperfections of each face take center stage. Accompanied by Ryuichi Sakamoto’s soundtrack of dynamically modulating drone frequencies, Tsai’s subjects variously speak, stare, and, at one point, sleep as the camera quietly registers the weight of personal history and accumulated experience writ beautifully across every last pore and crevasse.
—NYFF Read More »

Edward Yang – Kong bu fen zi aka The Terrorizers (1986)

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It’s been a couple of decades since it was released, and more than 10 years since I saw it at the Brooklyn Museum of Art’s landmark retrospective of Taiwanese cinema, but Edward Yang’s The Terrorizers has an urgent pull that makes me eagerly anticipate seeing it again. This 1986 film took the form of paranoid, pessimistic modernist thriller, with unreliable narration and uncertain relationships between characters and causality of events. Three seemingly unrelated groups of people become more tightly entwined as the film links them together in surprising—and sinister—ways. It will be interesting to see if this narrative tactic, which has been heavily copied from Tarantino onward, seems as fresh now as it did then. Yang, who was one of a trio of great Taiwanese filmmakers that constituted a “new wave” in the 1980s and ’90s, had his real breakout with his next film, A Brighter Summer Day (1991), but his biggest international success was with Yi Yi in 2000. Unfortunately, that would be his last film; he died in 2007 at the age 59. Read More »

Fred Tan – Li gui chan shen AKA Split Of The Spirit (1987)

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The ghost of a murdered woman possesses a dancer’s body in order to exact vengeance on her killer.

Light Industry wrote:
A rarity unearthed from Harvard’s vaults, Fred Tan’s Split of the Spirit is a macabre tale of supernatural possession, necromantic battles, and the vengeful phantom of a woman scorned. In Tan’s stylish neo-noir thriller, a renowned female choreographer becomes overtaken by the specter of a murdered woman, who forces her to enact revenge upon the men who have wronged her. After a string of gruesome slayings, the film culminates in a searing conflagration, an allegorical avant-garde dance finale, and ultimately an Orphic journey to the afterworld and back. Tan worked as an assistant director to King Hu and made only three features before his death at age thirty-five; placing the forces of ancient sorcery in contemporary Taiwan and Hong Kong, he deploys an ominous synth soundtrack and an expressive, haunting mise-en-scène to bring primeval frights into the modern world. Read More »