Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
TIFF ’14: Partners in Crime
must have the worst school counselors in the world. The trauma intervention
three teenagers receive after discovering a dead schoolmate is more like
detention than treatment, but they are not very disturbed by the experience
anyway. In fact, it initially appears to be the beginning of a beautiful
friendship before things take a dark turn in Chang Jung-chi’s Partners in Crime (trailer here), which screens
during the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival.
the poster art makes abundantly clear, there is no mystery regarding the cause
of Hsia Wei-chao’s death. Just why she presumably threw herself out of her
mother’s upscale apartment is a different matter. Hsia was pretty, rich,
reserved, and therefore highly unpopular. When Huang, Lin, and Yeh stumble
across her body in the street, they dutifully call the police. Strangely, it is
a bonding experience for the trio, especially the constantly bullied Huang. Yet,
even Yeh the tough guy-slacker and Lin, a popular kid in a geek-chic kind of
way, find they can relax in each others’ company.
after their pointless counseling sessions, the boys keep meeting to share the
information they turn up on Hsia. Huang is an especially good investigator.
Before long, they are clandestinely hanging in Hsia’s room while her sort of grieving
mother is away on business. Believing he has identified the classmate who drove
Hsia to suicide, Huang hatches an elaborate revenge plot. It will definitely
not end as he plans.
seems student dramas are perennially popular in Taiwan. Some are upbeat and
endearing, like Hou Chi-jan’s When a Wolf Falls in Love with a Sheep—and some are not, like Partners. Think of it as a Breakfast
Club with dead bodies. It is more of a why-dunit than a whodunit, but there
are still some unsettling revelations to ferret out. Yet throughout it all,
Chang shows a rather deep and forgiving understanding of the messiness of human
are at least six meaty roles for Chang’s high school-aged cast (or so they
certainly look) and he gets solid to hauntingly good performances from them
all. Chang is no stranger to young people’s stories, having broken through
internationally with Touch of the Light,
but this is a far more taut and murky affair than fans of his previous film would
expect, despite the occasional stylistic excess here and there. Arguably, it
should hold greater appeal for NYAFF/Fantasia patrons than for anyone looking
for a date film. However, its tragic nature should lead to some nice local box
office change nonetheless.
resists easy sentimentality, reminding viewers how difficult it is to truly
understand peoples’ lives from a distant outside perspective. However, it is
not a Rashomon like exercise
problematizing truth as an objective standard. Instead, that might be something
that can eventually be sussed out with sufficient time and sensitivity. Recommended
for fans of mysteries and teen dramas with savage bite, Partners in Crime screens again tomorrow (9/11) and Friday (9/12)
at this year’s TIFF.
Labels: Taiwanese Cinema, TIFF '14