Set in 1980s Taiwan, after the end of military dictatorship, Monga centers around the troubled lives of five boys coming of age together. The narrator of the story, Mosquito, is invited to ... See full summary »
A Taiwanese boy joins gymnastics at school and has talent for it. His mother forces him to stop and help with the family business. He goes on a downward spiral of fighting etc. Hitting rock bottom he decides to pursue his dream again.
When three rebellious students leave their hometown to pursue their lifelong dreams in the big city, their relationships start to face the pressures of real life as the 1980s Taiwanese ... See full summary »
Madame Tang colludes and mediates between the government and the private businesses for the benefits of her all-female family. One case does not go according to plan, and an entire family close to Madame Tang fall victim to a cruel murder.
A delivery Boy falls for a young girl who is hearing impaired. Comparing themselves with "water birds" and trees, together they are going to break the barrier and pursue their dreams and take their relationship to the next level.
After the initial uprising at Wushe, Mona Rudao faces an unwinnable guerrilla war against the militarily superior Japanese plus fierce rival Seediq clans. He and his followers must fight ... See full summary »
An indigenous clan-based people living in harmony with nature find their way of life threatened when violent interlopers from another culture arrive, intent on seizing their natural resources and enslaving them.
A group of close friends who attend a private school all have a debilitating crush on the sunny star pupil, Shen Jiayi. The only member of the group who claims not to is Ke Jingteng, but he ends up loving her as well.
The achingly beautiful film is lushly produced, and features a hauntingly heartfelt performance by Chen Jian Bin
For playing a gangster with a heart of gold in Monga (2010), 31 year old Taiwanese good looker Ethan Ruan took home the Best Leading Actor prize at the 47th Golden Horse Awards. While we do not have not have much qualms about his acting, we thought such accolades were meant for more veteran actors. The Taichungborn actor rose to fame in the Taiwanese drama Fated To Love You, and has a steady fanbase made up of, yes, nothing surprising here – teenage girls.
From a business point of view, it makes perfect sense to cast him as an army conscript from southern Taiwanwho's selected shortly after arriving on Kinmen to be a part of the elite Sea Dragons amphibious force by a tough sergeant major. Alas, our protagonist cannot swim and is promptly transferred to the infamous "831" unit, also known as "Paradisein Service." There, soldiers are serviced by comfort women and our leading man works through the administration side of things, never once touching the girls. But how long does that last, you ask?
Appearing in his third film directed by Doze Niu (after 2010's Monga and 2012's Love), Ruan delivers a decent performance here. We empathise with him as his friendship with one of the ladies blossoms into full-blown love. We feel for him as he fights his own demons and the conflicts of interest he faces. He questions his own promise of celibacy and the promise to his country.
But the character who tugs at our heartstrings in this Golden Horse nominated film is Chen Jian Bin's strict sergeant major. His haunting performance as an illiterate northerner who is struggling to learn the Taiwanese dialect is almost heartbreaking, as the fierce character often intimidates soldiers with his tough front. It is his story that highlights the true tragedy of the screenplay. A man who is forced to fight against the country he once called home is stationed on an island where he feels like an alien, forced to fight the people whose accent seems more familiar, he encounters a personal war. Displaced, disillusioned by propaganda, demonised by the destruction and a pending tragedy with a prostitute, Chen's wonderful performance embodies the Taiwanese struggle (for those of you who know Taiwan's history well).
The film has streaks of brutality in Niu's previous gangster picture Monga, but the 134 minute movie is anchored by a large dose of melodrama. Men desperately declare love and marriage while others vie to have every woman available. Larger than life characters from both sides create moments of humour and pathos to get your attention. There could have been more effort put into fleshing out the supporting characters, including a bespectacled conscript (Wang Po Chieh) subjected to bullying by his fellow soldiers, a prostitute (Regina Wan Qian) who is selling her body to reduce prison time and an alluring woman (Iven Chen) who dreams of a better future while seducing men with empty promises.
Technically polished, the film is a joy to look at. It benefits from cinematographer Charlie Lam's beautiful lensing and auteur Hou Hsiao-hsien who takes on the role of editing director and co producer. At the end of the two odd hours, you'll walk out of the cinema pondering how a war can impact life in so many different ways.
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