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I remember having a conversation one day with a friend i was "educating" in Asian cinema, and giving him a few films, including Hong-Kong, Macau, Mainland and Taiwan. He laughed at the fact that i was making a distinction for something that to him was just "Chinese" films. However, each of those "Chinese" regions have a distinct coloration that permeates their film industry. In the span of a few months, i have seen five really outstanding Taiwanese films. I must admit i have a weakness for films coming from Taiwan: they have a very artsy European feel in terms of the subject matters they touch, their slower pace, and their more contemplative nature. In that respect, they break away from the rest of Asia, although independent South Korean fares come close.
So here, i am going to cover those 5 films briefly: Prince Of Tears, How Are You Dad?, Hear Me, Tears, and Yang Yang. They are all from 2009, a prolific year for Taiwan, and cover epic historical landscapes, intimate personal relationships, quirky romances, and destructive obsessions.
Tears (2009) had me stumped for a minute as it started with a moody crime that could have taken place in a Hong Kong gangster film. Quickly though, the film got back into Taiwanese territory with a more contemplative character study of an older detective trying to find redemption after getting assigned to a young woman's murder. Known around the Police force as a merciless interrogator who has honed very violent and effective methods of interrogation, the man is a ball of violence that has turned into contempt and indifference as he aged. But that one case, that one corpse of a beautiful young woman, has an indelible effect on him. This is likely one of his last cases, and as his investigation progresses, he meets several of the girl's friends, including a young woman whose father he helped frame many years back.
This is a fascinating movie with powerful performances anchoring a dramatic story put together with very cool visuals and creative cinematography and sound design. The finale is particularly well put together and powerful. This is a cop story that is classic Hong Kong, yet with a sensibility and pace that is again so typically Taiwanese. Highly recommended, and perhaps one of the better films of 2009 worldwide.
- Laurent Hasson