Monday, October 01, 2012

VIFF Day Two: 10 + 10

20 directors were commissioned by the Golden Horse Film Festival to each make a five minute film about something Taiwanese and the result is this collection, an unusually successful entry in the portmanteau film genre.  Ten of the directors are veterans, ten are relative newcomers (hence the title), but aside from a couple names I recognized (Wu Nien-jen and Hou Hsiao-hsein, of course), I couldn't tell you which was which, I guess that bodes well for the Taiwanese film industry.  Seen as a whole, the film presents a compelling vision of Taiwan in all its diversity and weirdness, with some glances at serious issues thrown in.

My favorites: Wang Toon's opener Ritual about a couple of guys hiking to a remote shrine to give thanks for a lottery win (they've brought the gods a DVD of Avatar, which they watch together on a sheet strung across the hillside); Shen Ko Shung's Bus Odyssey, a grim black and white film notable mostly for its sound design (especially given that direct sound was practically unheard of in Taiwanese cinema only 20 years ago); Wei Te-sheng's Debut a pretty cheesy but heartfelt prayer for success in spreading knowledge about indigenous Taiwanese at a film festival; Hippocamp Hair Salon, a kind of Eternal Sunshine with a Wong Kar-wai look and a darkly funny twist  by Chen Yu-hsun; Sylvia Chang's Dusk of the Gods, a moving meditation on religion and capital punishment ("Will a bad person like me get my good soul back when I'm executed?"); The Debut, by Chen Ko-fu, about a singer getting a True Romance-style pep talk from a glamorous phantom in 1968; Hou Chi-jan's Green Island Serenade, another singer, this time singing for the radio in the black and white past, panning to the full color present, music as time travel; Leon Dai's Key about the urban loneliness of a woman who pretends to have forgotten her key in the hopes of getting to talk to someone, erupting into a flash-cut ballet sequence; Unwritten Rules, a clever and hilarious indie film set comedy about trying to coverup the Nationalist flag a crew finds on location (line of the night: "Thank you for saving Taiwanese cinema."); and finally Hou Hsiao-hsien's La Belle Epoque, with Shu Qi hearing the story of her family's golden heirlooms and posing for a portrait, which finds Hou for the first time (as far as I know) intercutting what appears to be archival or at least black and white footage into one of his films.

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