takes her cue from government propaganda, whereas he takes inspiration from
Gundam. Advantage: his. They will bicker constantly as a mutual
attraction slowly but steadily develops in Hsieh Chun-yi’s cross-border rom-com
Apolitcal Romance (trailer here), which screens
during the San Francisco Film Society’s annual Taiwan Film Days.
any self-respecting slacker, Chen Yu-zheng (a.k.a. A-Zheng) took a government
job. Normally, it is not terribly
demanding, but his boss is on his case over a report on various differences of etiquette
for the mainland and Taiwan. He has a week
to fix it, but he has no clue when it comes to the PRC. As fate would dictate, Qin Lang is in Taipei
for a week, hoping to track down Chen Guang, her grandmother Li Huan’s fondly
remembered lover from sixty years back.
They will sort of come to an arrangement.
and argumentative, Qin Lang will not get very far on her own, but Chen was born
to navigate Taiwan’s bureaucracy. Before
you can say “red tape” he has a list of Nationalist veterans born in Li Huan’s
home province. As they follow-up each
lead, the sparks start to fly, but never past a certain point. Apolitical
is all about possibilities rather than consummations. By rom-com standards, Hsieh’s film is wildly
ambiguous, but that is its real charm.
We cannot even say definitely whether they ever will be a proper couple,
but they clearly are in each other’s heads.
Apolitical also offers a
fascinating look into the perceived differences between the Republic and
mainland China, presenting the Beijinger as reflexively jingoistic and the
Taiwanese Chen as a meek geek. However,
Hsieh never really delves into specific ideological differences. Instead, he aims for nostalgic romanticism
with every story of separated love Chen and Qin Ling hear in their quest for Chen
Chang and Huang Lu are ridiculously attractive would-be maybe lovers, but they
never get too cute or cloying. They get
some rather sensitive support from many of the Chen Guangs, particularly Chien
Te-men as number four. Not surprisingly,
there is an episodic quality to the film that mostly works quite well, but
Hsieh pushes his luck with a flawed subplot involving Qin Ling’s former
lover. In contrast, Chen’s visit to his
disgraced father packs some quiet power precisely because it is not over
written or over played.
is never as achingly emotional as Hsieh’s
exquisitely poignant short Braid, but
its restraint is a virtue. It is a
rom-com, more or less, but it is also a wistful commentary on the absurdly
arbitrary things that separate people, like borders, ideologies, and health
exchanges. Recommended for those who
prefer curve ball movie romances rather than a happily-ever-after fastball over
the plate, Apolitical Romance screens
this Sunday (11/3) at the Vogue Theatre as part of this year’s installment of
the SFFS’s Taiwan Film Days.
Labels: Movie Romance, Taiwan Film Days '13, Taiwanese Cinema