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San tiao ren (1999)

The protagonist is Asano who has had an amazing memory since his youth spent in Okinawa. Words have tangible shapes, tastes and colours for him. This goes so far that he is not even able to... See full summary »


Christopher Doyle
1 nomination. See more awards »


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Credited cast:
Tadanobu Asano ... Asano Takashi (adult)
Georgina Hobson Georgina Hobson ... Georgina
Christa Hughes Christa Hughes ... Christa
Takanori Kubo Takanori Kubo ... Asano Takashi (boy)
Kevin Sherlock Kevin Sherlock ... Kevin
Mavis Xu Mavis Xu ... Susie


The protagonist is Asano who has had an amazing memory since his youth spent in Okinawa. Words have tangible shapes, tastes and colours for him. This goes so far that he is not even able to forget words once he has heard them. He travels the seas and because 'Hong Kong' feels wonderful, he goes ashore there. He chances upon the Dive Bar, that soon turns out to be the haven of comfort he has been seeking since his youth. The bar is run by the flamboyant, hospitable Kevin, who is also an alcoholic, eclectic lover and a perfect confidant to Asano. But Kevin keeps forgetting all kinds of things and that gets him into trouble sometimes. Words seem only to stand in the way of the relationship between Asano and Kevin... Written by Bastiaan van Gestel <geste002@wxs.nl>

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Did You Know?


The role of Kevin was written specifically for the director and co-writer Christopher Doyle's friend Kevin Sherlock, who stated that he simply played himself. See more »

User Reviews

three parts autism, one part auteur
29 September 2005 | by squelchoSee all my reviews

I'm probably barking up the wrong tree, but for me this piece reads like an exploration of autism. Asano's character seems to be a classic example of synaesthesia in action. This is sometimes associated with schizophrenia, but I've also heard it mentioned by parents of autistic children. Who knows what goes on in the mind of Christopher Doyle? Maaybe not even Chris Doyle after a night on the grog.

I'm guessing as usual, but I think the English/Aussie bar owner is playing the Doyle role, reborn every day with a slight hangover and a few fresh bruises, and attempting to show that language is just one of the barriers that humans have to negotiate in order to communicate effectively. If you can't get over it, you can always go around it. Or invent an image based filmic language for the global village.

Visually, this movie plays like a roadkill version of Fallen Angels, fractured and displaced almost at random. The soundtrack is as non-linear as the rest of the movie, crashing around like a breakbeat electro dj on dodgy pills. It makes the MTV jumpcut junkies look positively pedestrian when it takes flight, but still manages to explore the rapport between the three principals in a tender, almost polite fashion. It makes very little immediate sense, what with the language and obtuse script, but the gentle absurdity gels quite nicely upstairs in the aftermath.

I doubt that it would be possible to write a spoiler for this movie, because it's unlikely that any two people would ever see it quite the same way. I particularly enjoyed the gargling lady with the guitar, and the piggyback policewoman, although I might have just imagined them. The maguffins were delicious. My compliments to the chef.

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USA | Japan | Hong Kong | Singapore


English | Japanese | Cantonese

Release Date:

7 August 1999 (Japan) See more »

Also Known As:

A Way with Words See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Time Warp Inc., TimeWarp See more »
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Technical Specs



Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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