In the 1920's, when Taiwan is Japan's colony, the small town Chiu-Fen was famous of its gold mines. Escaping from the landlord's control, Chu and Wei join the gold rush in Chiu-Fen, hoping ... See full summary »

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Credited cast:
Xianmei Chen
Pin-Yuan Huang
Chang-Bin Jen
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(as Qiaqia Peng)
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In the 1920's, when Taiwan is Japan's colony, the small town Chiu-Fen was famous of its gold mines. Escaping from the landlord's control, Chu and Wei join the gold rush in Chiu-Fen, hoping that they can be rich and have their own land some day. The are two kinds of women in the small town : hard working housewives and prostitute. The formers are always struggling in poverty. Jou is one of them. People believe that she is doomed to be a widow. She married twice. Both of her husbands are dead. Che falls in love with her anyway. He becomes her third husband in despite of people's warning. Many of the masters of brothels make a future from prostitution business as well as the black market of gold. Wei loves Fumiko, a young prostitute. He decides to buy back her freedom. Unfortunately, Fumiko is infected with V.D., dying. On the other hand, a gold mine tunnel is crashed suddenly, buries a lot of miners. Chu is among them. Jou packs the memorial tablets of her three husbands and leaves the ... Written by Anon

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5 December 1992 (Taiwan)  »

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Silent Mountain  »

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Long and sad, but worthwhile tale about Taiwanese miners
15 January 2006 | by (Brisbane, Australia) – See all my reviews

'Hill of No Return' is the third film in Wang Tung's 'Taiwan Trilogy'. It is a fable, recounted by an old man in the framing story. Set in the late twenties, it has to do with two brothers who leave their job as hired labourers and go to Chiu-Fen, a mining town, to work for the Japanese owners. (Taiwan was a Japanese colony from 1895 to 1945).

Most of the action takes place in this mining town. The two brothers, Chu and Wei, find lodging with a widow with several young children. She is working as a prostitute to feed them all. Apart from the work of mining, there is also a brothel, through which seems to pass much gold smuggled out of the mines by the miners rather than handed over. There is a young Japanese lady, 'Fumiko', who works as a servant girl at the brothel, and with whom Wei is smitten. There is also a boy working there (a half-Japanese adopted son of the madam) who likes her, and who spends much of his time peddling pornographic puppets and cards to the miners.

Spread over three hours, various episodes, humorous and tragic take place. In contrast to the other two films in the trilogy, this one is much sadder, which is to be expected, since it is presented as a moral fable. In this tale that essentially revolves around the twin desires for fast money and instant pleasure, there are more 'downs' than 'ups'. The length of the film also allows plenty of time for the characters to emerge as fully rounded and believable people, with the nobility and weaknesses to be expected of human beings.

As with other films of Wang Tung, there is some stunning scenery. The Portuguese were right to call Taiwan 'Ilha Formosa', or 'Beautiful Isle'. The costuming was credibly done, and there was an interesting mix of languages spoken also, which must have been quite a problem historically with Japanese-speaking rulers and Chinese natives. The actors acquitted themselves well, particularly the brother madam and Chu, the elder brother.

In sum, this film brings the 'Taiwan Trilogy' of Wang Tung to a close with a long, but involving, cautionary tale which is of historical and human interest. Of the three films, it is the darkest, but not unbearably pessimistic. Life goes on. Though surrounded by greed and lust, there is still love, and hope. I'd recommend the whole trilogy to anyone interested in Taiwanese film, especially those interested in expanding their boundaries past Hou Hsiao Hsien, Edward Yang and Tsai Mingliang. The films can be watched in any order, though I'm not sure if they are available with English subtitles (the copies I viewed contained only Chinese subtitles). These works of Wang Tung, of a consistently high quality, certainly deserve a wider audience.


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