Sunday, August 29, 2010

《父後七日》 7 Days in Heaven

This film is simple, unforced and is carried off with a certain earnestness of emotion which lends the whole film sincerity. The father of the central character Mei, dies and the film follows the proceedings after his death: the complicated rites of a traditional Taiwanese funeral interspersed with the personal grieving process of each of the characters in the film. The understated and subtle acting brings genuine emotion and laughter to the film, which also seems to capture something that is very Taiwanese. This being said, the film has a universal appeal in the way it addresses the grieving process, with all its performed grief, the gentle humour and the unexpressed sadness that underpins the passing of a relative.

Great comic moments pervaded the whole film, the beer towers, the fake crying at random times, the jokes between brother and sister. The memories and the brief moments of grief throw the more light hearted parts of the film into relief.

This film far outreaches recent Taiwanese films in its uncontrived direction. It is comparable to Hou Xiaoxian's Dust in the Wind ( 戀戀風塵) in its easy handling of the Taiwanese character, without the heaviness of Hou's films, and with a lot more humour.

English Subs Trailer:

(絕色 Juese Cinema 7 is showing the film with English Subtitles)
Film Rating 5/5

The book it's based on is available at 誠品 (Eslite) and 博客來:


Friday, August 27, 2010

《蘭嶼觀點》 Voices of Orchid Island


The film records some of the issues that were being faced by the Yami people of Orchid Island in the early nineties: the incursion of Taiwanese tourism, modern medicine, religion and nuclear waste, as well as the effect of these on tribal traditions. This film was interesting in the manner in which the filmmakers questioned their role and motives in making the film. There was an emphasis on the camera's self consciousness, emphasized at times by the sounds of photos being taken or the little boy shouting "stop filming", as well as a series of negative comments about documentaries about the island, the filming of the other cameras crews who were there to provide exotic viewing for Taiwanese viewers, and the filming of all the cameramen present at a staged ritual dance. It is especially clear at the beginning of the film, where the motive of the documentary is laid out clearly by a discussion between the director Hu Taili and other figures who were part of the filmmaking team.

The traditions that are recorded in the film are not left unchallenged, but rather the difficulty of the clash between tradition and modernity become clear throughout the film, whether through the film makers self examinations, the doctor's use of "anito" (spirits) to introduce modern medical techniques, or even the difficulty a young yami encounters in organizing an anti-nuclear rally, due to his youth.

The film is an interesting exploration of the cultural and folk traditions of the Yami on Orchid Island, but also of the malignant nature of the ethnographer's presence and the change that comes with a culture's self-awareness. The moulding of Yami's customs to the eye of the other, in this case the Taiwanese, which they access through the medium of television, brings the Yami to resent this view of themselves as inferior.

As mentioned in the post "私角落 Corners", there is an interesting article by Kuei Fen Chiu discussing the way this film broke new ground in representing the unrepresented through certain cinemagraphic techniques. I have the link for those that are interested, post below if you'd like me to send it to you.

Here's a short preview of the documentary:

Film Rating: 4/5

《蘭嶼觀點》 胡台麗 1993





邱貴芬在〈A Vision of New Taiwan Documentary〉透過探討這部電影的拍攝技巧,嘉許此片的開拓性。

我推薦: 4/5

私角落 Corners

This documentary is included in the series "A Retrospective Collection of Documentary Films from Taiwan 1930 ~ 2003". It sets out to discuss gay life in Taipei, but ends up rather fragmented as it tries to take on many broad ranging topics in one go. It details the failure of a gay bar due to police raids, the sexual relations of lesbians, one man's ambition to have a formal dinner for gays and subsequent emigration to Malaysia, gay marriage and cottaging in 228 Peace Park.

It tries to represent gay culture in much the same way as Bai Xianyong (白先勇) does in his novel Niezi, but it falls into a subcultural representation of the gay scene. It seems to identify with the idea of gay nation building, and the us and them mentality. The male gay subculture represented in the documentary is one of drag queens, and toilet prowlers which seems miles away from the contemporary gay scene in Taiwan, or certainly is not the only face of male gay Taipei .True, the issues it touches upon, i.e. that Taiwan is still quite conservative in its attitude towards sexuality, are still relevant today, and few people come out willingly here, but the documentary lacked a coherent message, and I couldn't relate to it. Maybe as it tackled issues from a different generation. The sense of community that the film tries to foster seems irrelevant in the modern world, and the idea of a formal dinner for "gays" seemed a bit off too. Although at points it tries to break through it, the film seems rooted in the gay/straight binarism and fails to address the more complicated nature of sexuality and gender. This documentary aims to forward a gay view of the gay world, but in this sense it seems outdated, as the term "gay" reduces the whole spectrum of sexuality into opposition with an equally fabricated concept of "straight".

There is an interesting article on this film and "Voices of Orchid Island" (《蘭嶼觀點》) by Kuei Fen Chiu, discussing how the crew of both films employed techniques that made the role of the crew more visible, and self conscious, like the camera employed during the lesbian sex scene and the narration in French, because a foreign language allows her to say things that would be unspeakable in Chinese. The article is called "The New Taiwan Documentary" by Kuei Fen Chiu, if you would like to have a look at it post below and I'll send you the link.

There is a series of videos on youtube discussing the film's production:
Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:
Part 4:
Part 5:
Part 6:
Part 7:
Part 8:

Film Rating: 2.5/5

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

《第36個故事》 Taipei Exchanges

This film is the crystallization of Taipei pretentiousness. It is an empty hollow of a film, pasted over the key tenets of Taipei yuppie culture: owning an independent coffee shop, the "art" of both coffee and tray bakes, travelling the world, a nod to the Japanese colonial period (Kousuke Atari and the book of Japanese songs) and the idea of swapping instead of paying. I was almost surprised they did not throw in a homosexual plot line or two just for good measure.

The film appears to follow on from films like "Somewhere I Have Never Traveled" (《帶我去遠方》) and "The Most Distant Course" (《最遙遠的距離》), but it lacks any of simplicity or ease of these two films, however, it tries to capitalize on this simplicity by posing as the same kind of film, despite it's obvious commercialization of independent film.

Before seeing the film, it had been recommended to me by a friend. He took me to see a new cafe, later telling me that this was the cafe featured in the film. It was not, as it might have seemed, an independent, quirky little cafe, but rather it had been built specifically for the purpose of the film, but had opened for business as a result of the the film's success. The queue to get a seat was about an hour and a half, by which point I had started to thoroughly despise almost all of the sea of patrons. I did not despise them for the wait, but rather for how much they were enjoying the simulated "independence" of the cafe, and how they had trawled through the 38 degrees heat to get here, given its isolated position far from the MRT, but yet were giving off an air of "I just dropped in to this cute little cafe".

The script is not awful, and I laughed at points, but the concept was too conceived, and the characters and plot were mostly flat and uninteresting. There was clearly a marketing poll or a board meeting of some sort behind the generation of this film. What do yuppies from Taipei like?

In Taipei coffee making courses are extremely popular, and this film's rejection of the designs on top of the cream was laughable, in favor of the natural fusion of the cream and the coffee. Laughable because it all seems unimportant, irrelevant and undetectable to my taste buds. Maybe I'm a philistine, so shoot me.

Star Rating: 2/5

Friday, August 20, 2010

Shida Book Club

Hello, I'm Jimmy. The goal of this blog is to create a space where we can discuss books, cinema, culture, art, and anything of literary or artistic value. Feel free to write your posts in Chinese or English.