Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
AAIFF ’13: Touch of the Light
something a little different: a film about college-aged kids, who actually have
talent and are not compulsively bedding one another. Granted, they have confidence issues, but
their platonic friendship might just make all the difference in Chang Jung-chi’s
Touch of the Light (trailer here), which screens
tomorrow during the 2013 Asian American International Film Festival in New
this is Huang Yu-siang’s real life story, starring the blind piano prodigy as himself,
or a namesake very much like him. The
young musician leaves his home in the countryside for the first time ever to
enroll in a Taipei music school. His
classmates are mostly stuck-up creeps, but his comic relief roommate Ching is a
decent chap. However, Xiao Jie is something else entirely. A chance meeting with the tea delivery girl
nursing a broken heart leads to a deeply rewarding friendship. Perhaps, she will finally start pursuing her
dancing dreams and he will begin entering music competitions again.
you’re probably starting to feel nauseous right now, but Touch is nowhere near as cloying or manipulative as all that
probably sounds. Surprisingly, the film takes romance entirely off the table
(aside from the unsubtle questions from Huang’s little sister, played by the scene-stealing
Wu Ya-jo). Instead, Chang focuses on the
mutual support each gets from the other, while also celebrating the
contribution of their dedicated teachers.
Taiwan’s preeminent modern dancer Hsu Fang-yi does the honors for Xiao
Jie, absolutely illuminating the screen in the process.
Touch, Chang’s restraint is
admirable. It has a gauzy, lyrical vibe,
but the narrative is pretty well grounded in reality. The film is more about the daily carrying-on
in pursuit of one’s goals than triumphant crescendos. Obviously, Huang is perfectly believable as
himself. However, the Taiwanese-French
Sandrine Pinna is a far more magnetic presence on-screen. Then again, he is a better pianist than she
is a dancer, so maybe it all evens out.
Regardless, their easy, relaxed chemistry together is quite appealing. Perhaps the official mom of the year’s AAIFF,
actress-turned-producer Lee Lieh (previously seen in Together) also gives a wonderfully understating but acutely
touching performance as Huang’s protective mother.
“Presented” Oprah-style by Wong Kar-wai and
produced by his company, Touch combines
art-house quality performances with a mainstream audience-friendly narrative.
It is easy to see why Taiwan submitted it as their official Foreign Language
Oscar contender last year. Warm and inviting but not quite as by-the-numbers predictable
as one might expect, Touch of the Light is
recommended for those who enjoy gifted-youth dramas. It screens tomorrow (8/3) at the Asia
Society, as this year’s AAIFF enters the home stretch.
Labels: AAIFF '13, Taiwanese Cinema