Cities of Last Things (2018) Poster

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8/10
The injustice of life
chong_an13 September 2018
In a Chinese city of the future, where happiness is the creed and suicide a secular sin, a pensioner jumps to his death from a tall building. What follows are 3 episodes from his life, told in reverse order. There is the last day of his life, his time as a police officer, and his time as a wayward youth. Each earlier-in-life episode explains his actions later in life. This is interesting storytelling, slightly marred for me by not realizing that there were only 3 main time periods, and therefore trying unnecessarily to figure out if we had moved to an earlier time. From the director Q+A at the Toronto International Film Festival, the English title is inspired by the book Country of Last Things, while the Chinese title is Happiness City (Ironically, I believe).
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8/10
Unlikely Encounters on Taipei Streets at Night
Raven-196923 September 2018
Warning: Spoilers
From the opening scene where a man jumps from a building to his death, the film goes back in time to reveal the motivations behind character actions. Seemingly disparate elements are woven together beginning with a former police officer who is depressed and wandering Taipei streets at night, stalking his ex-wife and committing violent acts. Gradually we understand the relationships that influenced who the man is now. The roots of his sadness and happiness are revealed. Along the way unlikely encounters lead to a couple that intends to run away together, a boss in a relationship with his employee's wife, and a mother who fears she is a bad influence on her son.

This poignant, riveting, charming, occasionally funny and thoughtful film defies classification. The film is structured in three parts (future, present and then past). The final third of the film is based on a real story that the director read about in a newspaper. I love films like this that are puzzles with pieces that connect as the story unfolds. I loved exploring Taipei at night. There are some shaky scenes, but I find more to like about this film as I look back at it in time. I think it is because the stories and characters are so endearing.

World premiere seen at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival. Two of the main actors were present. One of them remarked that true love is possible if each person believes in and is true to the other, even in a brief space of time. I think she is right. "Why did you do this film in 35mm format?" someone asked the director, who answered "why not?!"
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