Ah Jie lost everything in the stock market due to a severe economic crisis. He spends his days in his sealed apartment, smoking joints and looking after the marijuana plants that he ...
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Ah Jie lost everything in the stock market due to a severe economic crisis. He spends his days in his sealed apartment, smoking joints and looking after the marijuana plants that he secretly grows in his wardrobe. In desperation, he calls a suicide helpline and gets to know Chyi, whose sweet and gentle voice causes him to fall in love with his fantasized image of her. He tries to ask her out but is repeatedly rejected. He begins projecting his fantasy of Chyi on Shin, the new girl working at the betel nut stall downstairs. Shin is always sexily dressed in order to lure male customers. Ah Jie becomes closer to her and soon the two of them sink into a world of erotic and psychedelic pleasures. At the same time, Ah Jie begins to stalk Chyi. Written by
I watched this film in a packed auditorium at the 2008 Istanbul International Film Festival, and what amazed me was that there was not a single audible laugh throughout the entire thing. The reason this was amazing is that the movie is, in parts, truly hilarious. Perhaps because the feel and movement of the production is so realistic, and there are long sequences of no dialogue, the audience didn't know what it was watching. Also, because the movie has a lot of fairly explicit sex scenes and lots of marijuana smoking, some people were likely shocked. On one side of me sat a middle-aged woman who was evidently there with her daughter. The woman shook her head and put her hand to her mouth several times, and might have got up to leave if she hadn't had to climb over several laps to get out.
The story follows a pot-smoking protagonist who has apparently fallen on hard times recently. He lives in a multi-floor apartment in Taipei that must be rather grand by the standards of Taiwan, but he's lost a lot of money in the stock market and now has to start selling his household goods to finance his pot habit. He's a small man in his mid- to late-thirties', and his girlfriend has recently left him. A few of the scenes of him stoned at home by himself are very funny. In one scene he is talking to (presumably) his ex-girlfriend on the phone while a kettle is boiling. He keeps walking back into the kitchen to take the kettle off the range and make it stop whistling, then going back in and putting it back on the burner, clearly having just forgotten why he took it off in the first place. People who have never experienced the effects of marijuana will not understand the humor, probably. In another scene he's watching a program on TV in which a fish is being prepared for some kind of traditional dish. The fish is scaled and gutted but is somehow still alive when served on the plate (a 'delicacy'). You can see the fish's mouth opening and closing in an obscene gaping motion, as our hero clutches a pillow and stares horrified and motionless at the screen.
He has an instant messenger chat partner he has never met. His chat name is "Marihuana is God," hers is "Little Cookie." Little Cookie is one of the main characters but she is fat, largely because her husbandevidently a professional cookcooks sumptuous dishes for her all the time at home. He long ago lost interest in her physically, and when a male guest comes to stay, she understands that the two of them are carrying on together. She develops an online attachment to Marihuana is God, but the protagonist is busy luring young, attractive hookers to his apartment, getting them stoned, and having gangbangs with them. One of the hookers actually starts to become attached to him, then is heartbroken when he only cares about getting stoned and having it off with any of the girls at the "hooker depot" where he originally picked her up.
The value of this film, which is not high, is that it gives a vision of Taipei street life: strange, brightly-lit little kiosk-type shops where escort girls in see-thru skirts and hooker outfits sell cigarettes and other conveniences all night; credit hotline agencies where row upon row of girls in cubicles answer calls from the hordes of debtors in Taiwanese society; vans with screens on three sides broadcasting lottery news and results. It is ultimately a highly depressing image but it nevertheless feels real in its nihilism, and its examination of how debts and gambling affect Oriental societies more severely than Western ones. For anyone who wants a look at Taipei, this is worth a look. Otherwise this movie is just another post-post-modern slice of super-depression, depression that is not negated by all the laughs.
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