In Mandarin with English & Chinese subtitle
Director: Hsiao Ya-Chuan
Cast: Guai Lun-Mei, Lin Zai Zai, Chang-Han,
RunTime: 1 hr 26 mins
Released By: Festive Films & Cathay-Keris
Official Website: http://www.taipeiexchanges.com
Opening Day: 15 July 2010
is a story about exchange. Doris and Josie are sisters with
completely different personalities. Doris was offended by
her younger sister’s unnoticed act of starting an event of
trading goods in their coffee shop. After a series of trading
and the stories along them, the event eventually changed the
sisters’ values and intuitions. And they started to look for
their own stories.
You know those moments when you are almost desperate for anything to perk your miserable life up a little? Even if you know it’s something sugar coated in an attempt to shield you from those harsh realities people have been talking about? Yes, you accept these little delicacies, and just for that moment, you believe there is hope in life yet. This arthouse film does just that – it makes you believe that life is beautiful, albeit the high possibilities that something so wondrous would never come true.
With acclaimed filmmaker Hou Hsiao Hsien serving as executive producer for this pleasant little gem, one can expect some sort of guaranteed satisfaction from the film ends. Television commercial director Hsiao Ya Chuan concocts a heart warming tale about a girl whose dreams come true when she opens a coffee café. She receives a pile of strange gifts which sparks off her younger sister’s imaginative mind. Her more pragmatic younger sister has an idea to run a bartering business in the café. Customers have to bring items for exchange if they identify something they like in the shop, which is beginning to look more like a warehouse. Naturally, more customers (including a man who brings 35 bars of soap and tells the girls a story about each bar of soap every time he comes by) visit the café and err, nothing much happens from there.
And you remind yourself, doesn’t that sound like life itself? That nothing much happens except for the occasional dream we have? The dream to travel the world? The dream to encounter people from different cultures? The dream to pursue true happiness? All these and more will run through your mind as you watch this charming film about – what happened to those dreams you once had?
A portrait of a sweet fairy tale is painted by the filmmakers as actresses Guai Lun Mei and Lin Zai Zai portray the older and younger sisters respectively. They are joined by Chang Han (the man with the 35 bars of soap) and singer Kousuke Atari (a cameo appearance as a Japanese man who sings in exchange for something he eyes in the café) in this almost self indulgent piece of work. But we can assure that you that for 86 minutes, you’d be treated to a platter of attractively pleasing elements, ranging from intricately choreographed shots, cutesy graphics and a lovely score by famed Taiwanese musician Summer Lei.
Surprising moments also come in the form of street interviews inserted throughout the film. They comment on the choices the protagonist makes in the film, and through their responses, you chuckle at the idealism that human beings have, and become thankful that you haven’t turned into a cynical scrooge… yet.
The film is also a perfect tool for promoting Taiwan’s pretty sights. The country’s tourism board would be proud of the filmmakers for stylistically capturing the city’s nice looking sights and sounds. It helps that the cast is eye candy too, because Guai and Lin are perfect as the sister duo, cheekily and playfully chiding each other’s ideals and dreams. Although Chang does not have much screen time, he exudes a nice guy charisma which leaves quite an impression.
So come on, indulge yourself in life’s little pleasures and appreciate this film’s attractive package. Because life won’t be always be so fine looking, so why make things so difficult for yourself with the deceits and lies?
(Enjoy this sugar coated fluff and remember the ideals you once had)
Review by John Li