Saturday, May 21, 2011

[SFS Talkies] Taipei 24H (台北异想)

There's Always Time For Love

Today's SFS Talkies was shrouded in mystery besides an NC16 rating for a Taiwanese film as a clue, and as it turned out it was the omnibus of short stories forming Taipei 24H, revolving around 8 stories of about 11 minutes each directed by different directors both up and coming and established, with the gimmick that their stories are each set in different hours over a 24 hour period. Like any collection of short stories, be prepared for a kaleidoscope of stories trying to encapsulate the amplified, dramatic life in the capital of Taiwan, with the usual subjective hits and misses.

Beginning with a comedy, Share the Morning by Cheng Fen-fen captures the frenzy of the people when caught up in something, each offering very opinionated views on how to tackle a problem, which is a cat stuck in a tree. You have a bit time actress, a man who responds to her call for assistance who's also nursing a crush on the married woman, cheerleaders, school going children, a lout and the list goes on, as each gather around from time to time to cheer and jeer, and offer unwarranted comments with bite, sarcasm and laughter for the audience.

Love forms the crux of the next three shorts. In Just a Little Run by Niu Chang-zer, it began with two woman cursing and swearing at each other, with accusations wrought by one that the other had stolen her boyfriend. We witness this bitchy argument through the eyes of a young girl, executing a plan to escape from her life with a fellow male classmate, and sparks fly at least for one party in their accidental roundtrip bus ride. The ending is rather weak though, with a verbose confession set against two drunk women in embrace, probably going to show how fleeting animosity can be over women involved with the same guy.

Summer Heat by Debbie Hsu is probably the sexiest of the lot, with an office lady and a man she meets in a restaurant going up hot and heavy with each other in a love hotel room, only for a series of inexplicable hotel staff and incidents to come disrupt their lunchtime tryst. I liked Save the Lover a lot, directed by Cheng Hsian-tse, dealing with a rather cool premise where a ruffian told to tail his boss' woman finds himself entrapped by the sassy lass, while contemplating his own broken relationship and trying to fend off a blackmail that doesn't bode well when his boss and his posse comes visiting. Probably the most adventurous of the lot in allowing the tilt of the camera be weaved into the narrative, and to see the famous Taipei 101 building from a different perspective.

Father and daughter relationships take up two stories. The first, Smoke by Lee Chi-yuam, is one almost devoid of spoken dialogue in traditional art house fare that relies heavily on the acting strength of its principle cast to carry the story of an estranged relationship, while Owl Service by An Je-yi is set in the twilight hours on board a night bus where the bus driver dad picks up and forces his runaway daughter to board his detail, in a sort of moving imprisonment where their resentment for each other gets an opportunity to be worked on. Sandwiched in between the two stories is the most experimental of the lot, with DJ Chen Ying-jung's Dream Walker telling the tale of a man being tailed by a kid in (what I thought was a mushroom) costume, and weaves in and out of imaginary dreamscapes and doors that open up to different environments, ala The Adjustment Bureau, sans hat. The ending packs a hilarious punch through the involvement of sign language.

The final short will probably be the one that's most notable to film fans, where Tsai Ming-liang and Lee Kang-sheng reverses the usual roles they play with the latter now being the director, and casting his mentor Tsai in a starring role with Remembrance, a homage short to pay their respects to Luo Man-fei, a famous Taiwanese dancer. It's hugely melancholic and relies on the reputation of the two directors to perhaps draw in the crowds to give Taipei 24H a chance wherever it's screened.

That said, Taipei 24H can actually stand on its own as it serves the purpose of a collaborative film loosely strung together through the gimmicky use of time, and becomes the showcase of Taiwanese filmmakers to demonstrate how diverse their cinema can be in one sitting.

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