is a country with a tragic history and rich legacy of pop music. Both factor prominently when ten established
Taiwanese filmmakers and ten emerging new talents were commissioned by the
Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival to create a five minute films expressing the
country’s unique character. The
resulting anthology 10+10 screens
this coming Thursday as an official selection of the 2012 New York Asian Film Festival.
going into 10+10 should not get hung
up on consistency. These twenty
filmmakers will cover a lot of emotional and thematic ground. The tension between tradition and
modernization will be a recurring motif, beginning with Wang Toon’s opener, in
which a bickering pair of cousins treks up to a remote shrine. They intent to curry favor with the spirits
by showing them the 3-D DVD of Avatar. It is a quiet but clever piece.
is also on tap in Wu Nien-jen’s A Grocery
Called Forever. Depicting a spirited
elderly woman who insists on keeping her family’s corner store open, it is a
pleasant slice of life. Taiwan’s aging
population play central roles in several constituent films, perhaps most
touchingly in Cheng Wen-tang’s Old Man
and Me. Told from the persona of a
now deceased man suffering from Alzheimer’s, it serves as his thank-you to the townspeople
who searched the countryside for him when he wandering off to his demise.
the approximate five minute durations, many of the installments are rather
sketch-like. Indeed, entries like Wang
Shaudi’s Destined Eruption and Yang
Ya-che’s The Singing Boy seem to end
just as they are getting started. However,
several pack quite a bit of narrative into their limited running times. Somehow, Chang Tso-Chi’s Sparkles shoehorns the entire 1949 Battle of Kinmen Island into
less than ten minutes. A powerful war
film, it follows an innocent girl being escorted to the island’s doctor by the
Nationalists, as they desperately try to hold off the invading Communists.
plenty of explosions, Sparkles is
probably one of the most NYAFF-esque films in 10+10. The other would be
Chung Mong-hong’s satisfyingly dark Reverberation. What starts as a teenaged bullying drama
takes a dramatic u-turn into gangster territory. Karma will be a hard thing.
the strongest shorts are those directly inspired by music. Chen Kuo-fu’s The Debut is a lovely ghost story, portraying the spectral encouragement
offered to a discouraged pop ingénue by one of the great torch singers from
yesteryear. Likewise, Rendy Hou Chi-jan
pays tribute to the sentimental ballads of the 1960’s, depicting one song’s
power to transcend time. Ranking just a
notch below the lyrical pair, Cheng Yu-chieh’s Unwritten delivers some ironic laughs satirizing the concessions
made by the Taiwanese film industry to the mainland market. Frankly, it is increasingly relevant to
Hollywood as well.
every film works particularly well. Wei
Te-sheng’s Debut ought to be a DVD
extra for his aboriginal war drama Seediq Bale, essentially following his first-time actor Lin Ching-tai as they take
the epic to the Venice Film Festival. Arguably,
the low point comes with Kevin Chu Yen-ping’s uncomfortably manipulative and
awkwardly didactic The Orphans.
there is a fair amount of star power in 10+10,
including Shu Qi looking typically radiant in marquis contributor Hou
Hsiao-hsien’s slight but nonetheless engaging closer La Belle Epoque. Kwai Lun Mei
also graces Leon Dai’s oomph-lacking Key. Despite attempts to glam her down, she
remains a vivid screen presence.
By their nature, anthology films are inherently uneven. Yet, there are enough good things going on in
10+10 to satisfy connoisseurs of
either short films or Asian cinema. On
balance, it is an effective sampling of Taiwanese cinema, well worth a look
when it screens this coming Thursday (7/5) at the Walter Reade Theater, as part
of this year’s New York Asian Film Festival.
Labels: Anthology Films, Hou Hsiao Hsien, Kwai Lun Mei, NYAFF '12, Shu Qi, Taiwanese Cinema