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Xiang jiao tian tang (1989)

"Door Latch" and his friend followed the KMT army and moved to Taiwan in 1949. They conceal their real name and get many trials and afflictions to adapt the circumstances in that special ... See full summary »

Director:

(as Tung Wang)

Writers:

, (as Xiaodi Wang)
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1 win & 5 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Shih Chang ...
(as Shi Zhang)
Kai-Chun Chen
Lung Fang
Wei Ho
Hsiang-Ping Hu
Hsin Li
Kun Li
Wei-Yi Li
Chi Shang
...
(as Ye-tien Ting)
Bi-yuan Yan
Qingyu Zeng
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Storyline

"Door Latch" and his friend followed the KMT army and moved to Taiwan in 1949. They conceal their real name and get many trials and afflictions to adapt the circumstances in that special situation. Yueh-Shiang is a classic traditional woman from China country. For requiting the graciousness of being saved by Door Latch, she becomes Door Latch's wife. She suffers hardship to raise and teach their children without any complains. Door Latch wasn't well educated and can hardly read. However, he uses Yueh-Shiang's late husband's name and diploma to get himself a job. Even though there are a lot of embarrassing situations and he suffers many difficulties, Door Latch survives. Door Latch also looks after his old pal Lee Der-Sherng when Lee loses his mind. However, the KMT government released the restriction to visit Mainland China. They are able to visit their parents and relatives there. Their son finds "their" parents, but bigger secrets will unfold. Written by Anon

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Drama

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1 December 1989 (Taiwan)  »

Also Known As:

Banana Paradise  »

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User Reviews

 
Amusing satire of life in KMT-ruled Taiwan
25 December 2005 | by (Brisbane, Australia) – See all my reviews

'Banana Paradise' is the second film in the director Wang Tung's 'Taiwan Trilogy'. At two and a half hours, it is much longer than the first, 'Strawman', and also spans a much longer period of time, beginning with the last stages of the war on the mainland, moving to Taiwan through the 50's, then jumping forward to the late 80's for the last half hour.

***Detailed plot description follows***

The main character of the film is a young man called 'Door Latch', who is drafted into the KMT, and works in a theatrical propaganda unit. Following the illusion of Taiwan as being a 'land of milk and honey,' he and his friend Li Desheng eagerly move to Taiwan. However, it is not long before he and his friend are accused of being spies, and are beaten during interrogation (in scenes recalling the so-called 'White Terror'). When they escape, Desheng finds a job working on a banana plantation, in spite of quite humorous mutual incomprehension between himself and the Taiwanese-speaking natives. 'Door Latch' aids a woman (Yuexiang) whose husband is dying of tuberculosis, and she and her baby remain with him after her husband dies. 'Door Latch', in fact, takes on the identity of the husband, who was both older, and had also studied English. The identity papers held him in finding work, though as work translating English documents relating to American-built aircraft. Barely literate, this situation leads to a number of humorous situations, and it is quite surprising that he is able to survive at all.

Later, Door Latch receives a letter from Desheng, and goes to the banana plantation to meet him. Desheng, however, soon loses his mind, raving about their being spies everywhere. Door Latch will spend the rest of the film caring for him. Life goes on, the 'couple' stay together through many difficulties, serious and humorous involving work and neighbours, with Door Latch somehow muddling through his job. The baby grows up and starts school.

The scene then moves forward forty years to 1987. Door Latch (now played by a different actor) has moved up in the company and drinks excessively. Desheng is still there too, still demented and listening constantly to a small radio. Yuexiang's son has now graduated. Importantly, 1987 is year people are allowed to return to visit relatives on the mainland. Yuexiang's son decides to go and look for his grandparents, promising to phone so that his parents can speak with their Door Latch fears that his deception may thus unravel, and Yuexiang also makes an unexpected confession. The film ends with an emotional phone exchange between Door Latch and the father of the man whom Door Latch has replaced. As if speaking with him own father, he accused himself of being unfilial, and receives with tears the news of the death of other relatives.

***Detailed plot description ends***

Best described as a satire, this film combines elements of humour with commentary on the conditions in Taiwan in the late forties and fifties under Chiang Kai-shek's iron hand. It is interesting that both this film and Hou Hsiao Xien's 'City of Sadness', were released in the same year, since both allude to the 'White Terror' of 1947, when the KMT viciously pursued anyone suspected of anti-KMT tendencies. Their paranoia becomes that of the traumatised Desheng.

Other, less overtly political aspects of contemporary society are the language barrier between native Taiwanese and the new arrivals, the life of the native banana growers, and the support received from USA. In the background is also the disappointment of the war veterans in finding in Taiwan less than the paradise they had been led to expect. The moments of overt humour are often 'stand-alone' sections, usually involving Door-Latch muddling his way through a variety of situations, from early romantic adventures to arguments with neighbours or even a pocketful of coins. There are many such moments, which lighten the drama considerably, though not lessening the significance of the film's dramatic aspects. If anything, they round out the characters more, especially that of the never-say-die Door-Latch. There is plenty in the plot for a teary melodrama, but I think the satiric form adopted makes the film less manipulative, and humanises the characters more than would have been the case with a straightforward tear-jerker. The humour also contributes towards an enjoyable viewing experience, which is important for a film almost 150 minutes long.

The actors all acquit themselves well, especially the actor playing the persistently youthful Door-Latch. The direction of Wang Tung is unhurried and unobtrusive, which gives time for the humanity of the characters to infuse. I quite enjoyed this second instalment of the 'Taiwan Trilogy', and am looking forward to the last one, (the even longer) 'Hills of No Return'.


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