This year, the Viennale has once again succeeded in garnering a great director of world cinema for the creation of the traditional festival trailer. At the Viennale’s invitation, the Taiwanese filmmaker Tsai Ming-liang, known through works such as REBELS OF THE NEON GOD, THE RIVER, THE HOLE and WAYWARD CLOUD, created a short, approximately two-minute homage to Lee Kang-sheng – the actor who has appeared in almost all of Tsai Ming-liang’s films over the past thirty years and significantly influenced his entire oeuvre.
The film XIAO KANG shows Lee Kang-sheng roaming through a bamboo forest in a succession of simultaneously mysterious and unintentional movements. These again are alienated by the projection of silent black-and-white footage, accompanied only by the sound of a projector. It’s a fine, minimalist work, oscillating between dream and memory and kept entirely in the style of Tsai Ming-liang’s great films. Continue reading
Mahjong (1996) is in many ways Yang’s greatest Satire, but has, at the same time, the beating pulse of a real dramatic story. In plays on the perception of Taiwan by foreign entities, urban locales, love, father/son relationships, and of course, themes of business & greed that Yang most vehemently loathes. The story is told through a variety of different viewpoints, but we are centered on a small gang of friends/hustlers, apparently led by Red Fish (Tang Congsheng), and consisting of Luen-Luen (Ke Yulun), a gentle-hearted translator, Hong Kong (Chen Chang of Crouching Tiger fame), a ladies man who is able to charm his way into any woman’s pants, and Little Buddha (the same actor who played “Cat” in Yang’s A Brighter Summer Day), a fake Feng-Shui expert who is used in the gang’s various scams. A French woman named Marthe (Virginie Ledoyen) – Yang plays very craftily on the similarity of the name ‘Marthe’ with ‘Matra’, the defunct subway system in Taiwan that is milking the city of its funds – comes to urban Taipei looking for her “lover”, a British man named Marcus. The plot eventually shows us Marthe’s eventual relationship with Red Fish’s gang (and Luen-Luen), but also reveals a variety of interesting narrative twists and turns concerning Red Fish and Hong Kong. Continue reading
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
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
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
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
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