Chronicles the last days of Japanese rule in a Taiwanese village, in a quasi-comical style.

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(as Tung Wang)

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, (as Hsiao Di Wang)
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5 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Chun-Fang Chang
Sheng Li Cho
Wen-Ying
Ping Nan Wu
Ying Ying
Baozhou Zhang
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Storyline

During the last years of Japanese occupation in Taiwan, as tenants from the preceding generation, the family of Chan brothers was suffering from poor harvest. With a deaf old mother, a mental disordered sister whose husband was killed in war, and a bunch of children, it was not hard to imagine that they were really poor. One day, a heavy unexploded bomb fell down from the sky on two brothers' farmland. The brothers brought the bomb to the Japanese police as a "gift for the Emperor of Japan". Unfortunately, the Japanese were frightened by the bomb and order them to throw it into the sea. They could do nothing but obeyed the order. The bomb exploded when thrown into the sea. A great number of dead fishes came out of the sea. The two brothers collected the fishes back home. When they saw their exciting family enjoy the fishes, they felt that God is fair. Written by L.H. Wong <as9401k56@ntuvax.ntu.ac.sg>

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Genres:

Comedy | Drama | History | War

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Release Date:

23 October 1987 (Taiwan)  »

Also Known As:

Strawman  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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User Reviews

 
Funny and touching dose of magical realism, Taiwan style
11 December 2005 | by (Brisbane, Australia) – See all my reviews

Strawman is a Taiwanese film set during the Second World War. At that time, Taiwan had been a Japanese colony for almost fifty years. Taiwanese men of fighting age had been recruited (or pressed) into the Japanese army, and as the Pacific War went the allies' way, Taiwan also became subject to bombing (albeit not as severely as Japan itself). In 'Strawman', this geopolitical situation is mediated through the lives of two brothers in the countryside, their family, and their village. The 'Strawman' of the title, an ineffective scarecrow, witnesses these changes in village life that the war brings.

  • MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD - The two brothers, the main actors of the film,


avoided the military draft due to eye problems provoked by their mother with this aim in mind. But even then, the family did not escape tragedy, for their sister become crazy after her husband was killed in action. Surrounded by a brood of children (one of whom is named 'Cowdung'), they attempt to feed themselves and their families, a task not helped by occasional requisitioning by Japanese overlords and collaborators.

During the course of the film, an elder brother returns to the village with his wife and two children. He has been quite successful in business in Japan, and intends to negotiate the sale of the fields he owns to a Japanese firm for use in sugar production. The contrast between these brothers and their families is skillfully shown, particularly as the poor local children are made to wait while for the leftovers from the guests' meal.

In the near vicinity there is also a bridge that is a target for American bombs, which leads to the main story in the second half of the film: what to do with an unexploded bomb? Since scrap metal was becoming a precious commodity for the war effort, the brothers decide to take it to the Japanese for a reward. The journey they make with the bomb, and with a local official in tow, is quite a humorous one, leading to a conclusion which is ultimately satisfying, though also amusing in a bittersweet way. END OF SPOILERS -

To simply call this film 'realistic' would be a little misleading. While reflecting genuine historical situations, it does so in a manner reminiscent of Gabriel Garcia Marquez' 'magic realism'. The performances of the actors, old and young, greatly contribute to this effect. What better mode to show the effects of a destructive war on a village so directly affected by it, yet so alien to it in spirit, than through a lens that is both compassionate, yet has such an accurate eye for irony and the sheer ridiculous? It is easy to see why this film was acclaimed when released in 1987, and I am eager to watch the two other films in the director Wang Tung's 'Banana Trilogy': Banana Paradise, and The Hill of No Return.


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