In Mandarin with English & Chinese subtitle
Director: Arvin Chen
Cast: Jack Yao, Amber Kuo, Lawrence Ko, Joseph
Chang, Frankie Gao, Gao Jie
RunTime: 1 hr 25 mins
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films
Opening Day: 29 July 2010
The never-ending bustle of life in Taipei
has become meaningless to Kai since his girlfriend left for
Paris. Broken hearted, he spends his days working at his parents’
noodle restaurant and his nights trying to learn French at
the local bookstore. It’s there that he meets Susie,
a sweet but lonely girl who takes an unusual interest in him.
Kai, however, can only think about getting to Paris - he’s
convinced himself that he’ll never find happiness or
love again if he’s stuck in Taipei.
When Brother Bao, a shady neighbourhood gangster
and real estate magnate, offers to help Kai get to Paris,
he immediately agrees. But Brother Bao’s help comes
with strings attached - Kai must pick up a mysterious delivery
for him on the same night that he’s set to leave for
Paris. Unfortunately there are others after the delivery,
including a group of aspiring gangsters who kidnap Kai’s
best friend, and an emotionally unstable police detective
with his own romantic issues. In the middle of all the chaos,
Kai runs into Susie, and soon they are pulled together into
the enchanting world of night time Taipei, with its vibrant
night markets, twisting alleyways, abandoned temples, lively
karaoke bars, and love hotels.
scooting, and even dancing through the city over the course
of this one night, Kai and Susie gradually begin to fall in
love. In fact it seems as if everyone around them is also
suffering from some form of lovesickness, as Taipei itself
comes alive with romance. By the early morning, Kai must make
a final decision about whether or not to go to Paris, and
realizes that there maybe no need to say “Au revoir…”
As a filmmaker, a sure way of winning your audiences would be to make a crowd pleaser which has the power to leave viewers smiling from ear to ear once the end credits roll. Come on, who would want to be cooped up in a depressing enclosure all day long to ponder about the unhappiness around us? Once in a while, it is healthy to go on a breezy journey where all things happy and unthreatening happen to everyone. This film does just that, and for 85 minutes, you’d be taken on a gratifyingly wondrous trip around Taipei, where you secretly wished that you are one of the protagonists, fleeting from one spot to the next without having to worry about a sad ending.
First time feature director Arvin Chen brings you a somewhat frivolous tale of an idle young man who wants to visit Paris to hunt down his girlfriend who has unfortunately dumped him recently. He needs money for the trip, so he gets involved with a mobster boss who asks him to help deliver a package. Things go haywire along the way and his goofy friend, the boss’ ambitious nephew and a cute bookstore employee get entangled into the web of misadventures. Adding fun to the crowd is a gung ho plainclothes policeman, a motley crew of minions and a group of lindy hop dancers (you have to see the film to understand the importance of their roles in the story).
The first thing that grabs you is how fluffy the plot is – discovering what love is all about in one night? Sure. But who are we to be cynical about the film when it nabbed the NETPAC/Asian Film Award at the recent Berlin Film Festival? Which is why we let our guards down and went along for the ride, leaving all skepticism and scorn behind us. And guess what, it isn’t such a bad thing to feel light as a feather once in a while. If people want to be chirpily entertained, we are not stopping them.
Kudos also goes to the cinematography department for capturing the appeal of Taipei. The technical package is commendable, especially for a debut feature film. The warm, loving and charming, dare we say it, personalities of the city are engagingly caught on camera lens to complement the story plot.
Just when you thought the film was lightweight enough, we have equally loveable male and female leads to complete the package – Jack Yao translates enough goof into charisma to appeal to the female audiences while Amber Kuo is so adoringly cute just by pushing the book cart. The best bits of the film go to Frankie Gao (more affectionately known as the Frog Prince to fans of yesteryear’s Chinese pop music) as the mobster “villain”. The character seems to be tailor made for the iconic pop star, and you have to experience his performance to understand what we are getting at. Elsewhere, look out for familiar faces of Taiwan cinema, including Joseph Chang (why is he sporting a strange hairdo as the plainclothes cop?), Jack Kao (a competent fatherly figure) and Tony Yang (who gets beaten up by Chang in an unintentionally rib tickling sequence).
Without giving too much away, we are guessing that ss the film’s end credits roll, you may just get the urge to pick up lindy hop, and dance those worries away.
(You are a Scrooge if you don’t step out of the cinema smiling)
Review by John Li