Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Slamdance ’17: Aerotropolis
you hear a politician propose a massive public works project, clutch your
wallet tightly. Such advice definitely would have been warranted in the case of
the Taoyuan special municipal district in Taiwan. Conceived as a regional
transportation hub built around a shiny new airport, Taoyuan has become a
costly boondoggle. Those on the inside surely profited just the same, but independent
speculators like Allen found themselves holding the bag. As a result, the quiet
speculator must live a desperate, rootless existence in Jheng-Neng Li’s Aerotropolis, which screened during the
2017 Slamdance Film Festival in Park City.
a real estate boom, Allen sunk his entire inheritance into a Taoyuan luxury
condo. Unfortunately, the market drastically underperformed, making the
property dashed difficult to flip. In hopes of recouping some of his investment,
Allen keeps the flat in pristine condition, sleeping in his car and living in
the public spaces of the airport and bullet-train stations (having just flown
through several New York airports, we have to admit the Taoyuan facilities look
only time Allen spends in his property are the nights when his flight attendant
girlfriend Tzu visits, but the only amenities he can offer are an air mattress
and a bottle of wine. That is unfortunate, because she obviously craves the
warmth and security of a legitimate home.
is no getting around it, Aerotropolis is
a festival kind of film with virtually zero theatrical prospects. It is also
the work of a keen stylist that reflects a bitter disillusionment with the
Taiwanese political and economic establishment. There are some stunning visual
compositions in the film, which you can’t possibly miss, since Li is working
almost entirely in long takes. Yet, that kind of aestheticizing technique
rather suits the character’s limbo. You can almost think of it as Spielberg’s The Terminal or Lost in Translation, as remade by Bela Tarr.
though Li tries to keep his characters at a distance, we still get a direct
sense of their inner desperation. Both Chia-Lun Yang and Jui-Tzu Liu express
volumes without words and withstand the withering focus of Li’s lens. Viewers
will feel for them both, even when he starts to make us rather uncomfortable.
is best reserved for a high-end sliver of the
cineaste world who find the four-hour Romanian films NYFF loves to screen to be
excessively perky and commercial. However, it is impressive as the
uncompromised consummation of Li’s vision. In addition to writing, directing, and
producing, he also served as his own editor, cinematographer, art director, production
designer, and sound dude, so pretty much everything in the film is there
because of him. You can also see a lot of talent, but it demands a lot from
viewers in return. Recommended for patrons of slow cinema, Aerotropolis will find its audience after screening at this year’s
Labels: Slamdance '17, Taiwanese Cinema