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Having seen quite a few Taiwanese movies, I was interested in seeing how the films of the director Chen Yuxun compared to those of Tsai Mingliang or Hou Xiaoxian. 'Tropical Fish' compares rather favorably. It is much lighter than the works of his elders, and is very funny in places, though in no way a shallow, predictable potboiler.
The plot, without giving too much away, deals with a mediocre student about to face national exams, who is caught up in a kidnapping. Needless to say, the kidnapping does not quite work out as planned.
The impending exams loom large as the story progresses in a way that is both humorous and perhaps also critical of how these tests are of such paramount importance in determining education and career possibilities. There also seems to be some contrasting of Mandarin speakers and Taiwanese speakers which follows class distinctions quite closely. I quite enjoyed hearing Taiwanese spoken in such an earthy and piquant style. I hope Taiwanese directors continue to support its use.
The plot moves forward in a controlled manner, avoiding predictability, and (with a few musical interludes) towards a quite satisfying conclusion.
Having just the right mix of humour and social reality, I really enjoyed this one, and am looking forward to seeing the director's next film, Love Go Go.
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