Flowers of Shanghai (1998) 海上花

Country: Taiwan
Language: Cantonese, Shanghainese
Runtime: 130 minutes
Director: Hou Hsiao-Hsien
Starring: Shuan Fang, Michiko Hada, Hsu An-An, Annie Yee, Jack Kao, Carina Lau, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai.

Theme: War

Ratings: IMDb: 7.4 /10 | Rotten Tomatoes: 89%

Film Festivals:
1998 Cannes Film Festival
1998 Asia-Pacific Film Festival
1998 Kerala International Film Festival

Awards:
1998 Asia-Pacific Film Festival: Best Art Director / Best Director

1998 Kerala International Film Festival: Golden Crow Pheasant (Hou Hsiao-Hsien)

Nominations:
1998 Cannes Film Festival: Palme d’Or

Based on the 1892 novel ‘Sing Song Girls of Shanghai’ by Han Bangqing, Flowers of Shanghai is set around 2 strands of narratives – one involving Wang, a rich gentleman caller caught between his long-term lover and new mistress and the other around Emerald, a pompous but popular prostitute who aims to buy her way out of the brothel to freedom. The setting is a brothel in 1880’s Shanghai. Overarching themes of the movie center around power struggles amongst the call girls, the dilemmas faced by the gentlemen callers and the powerful head mistress of the brothel.

Most of the film is shot in the dark with lighting coming from candlelight or oil lamps, casting warm hues of reds and golds. The use of such luminous, natural-light cinematography techniques is a very powerful visual impetus because it creates the type of feel one would get in a brothel back in the 1880’s – which are dark sleazy places that men go to for comfort. Most of the shots in the movie consists of long, widescreen shots that track slowly from side to side, taking in lengthy and whole conversations at once, making the overall pace of the movie very slow, ultimately drawing us into the world of 19th Century Shanghai. It creates a “fly-on-the-wall” effect, which allows us to observe small but privileged moments as well as the intricate details of the settings without interference or commentary (Anderson, 2000).

Even though the movie centers on brothels and call-girls, there is hardly any mention or show of sex or passion. Instead, what we get on-screen are shots of the call girls feeding their clients, stoking their ego and bringing them their opium pipes.

Augmenting the slow paced nature of the film is its tendency to repeat certain things. For example, a particular sound track is repeated several times throughout the film and the movie constantly returns to the main round table where the gentlemen callers wine and dine, while the girls stand behind or sit beside them. I’m not really sure what this represents but the use of such repetitive techniques seem to suggest a sort of circular causality – that these are events that took place because of something and will continue to do so unless something drastic happens. Another thing to add about the musical score is its dreamlike and almost timeless undertone, this combined with the slow narrative and visuals of the show creates an almost hypnotic effect that dulls our senses and draws us deeper into the scenes. Furthermore, every shot in this film is an interior shot; we almost never ever see the outdoors or the sky, not even through the windows.

Overall I must say that I found that Flowers of Shanghai could have been better had the plot and characters been more compelling. But the visuals i.e. colors and costumes are lavishly detailed and the cinematography creates a more than worthy mood for the film and its premise.

By mostly relying on the little schemes and problems between the courtesans and their clients, the movie focuses too much on petty elements which results in a minimal plot, ultimately that makes it hard for us as viewers to be engaged in what is happening on-screen. The fact that the story moves at an incredibly slow speed, combined with the dull dreamy visuals alleviates the pain of sitting through this film. Furthermore, the lack of close-up shots, and restrained physical expressions of the characters make it very hard for viewers to get any sense of their emotional states. It becomes hard to identify with and find any emotional connection with the characters on screen. The end result is an equivocal and distant one.

References

Anderson, J. M. (2000). Combustible Celluloid film review – Flowers of Shanghai. Retrieved on December 6, 2010, from http://www.combustiblecelluloid.com/flowshang.shtml

Eternal Summer (2006) 盛夏光年

Country: Taiwan
Language: Mandarin
Runtime: 95 minutes
Director: Leste Chen
Starring: Joseph Chang, Bryant Chang, Kate Yeung
Theme: LGBT Issues

Ratings: IMDB: 7.3/10

Film Festivals: N/A

Awards: 2006 Golden Horse Award: Best New Performer (Bryant Chang)

Nominations: 2006 Golden Horse Award: Best New Performer (Joseph Chang) / Best Supporting Actor (Joseph Chang)

 

Eternal Summer (2006) by Leste Chen is a gay-themed movie revolving around the complicated relationship of three high school students. Carrie (Kate Yeung), who loves Jonathan (Bryant Chang), discovers that he has actually been secretly in love with his best friend, Shane (Joseph Chang), ever since elementary school. Meanwhile, Shane falls for Carrie in a bizarre love triangle. The plot thickens as the relationship between the three become more complex and convoluted.

Matthijs (2010) claims that the film primarily centers on Taiwanese visual aesthetics and elements and it is not difficult to see why, through the numerous day scenes that incorporate nature through “vivid hues to blues and greens”. There are several landscape shots, such as green meadows and fields that do a good job in creating the film’s atmosphere and mood. It dives deep into the viewers’ hearts and paints a touching, melancholic picture especially when augmented by the soundtrack that is mainly made up of subdued piano music.

The film is very visually driven. The homosexual theme for instance is conveyed through the use of typical connotations such as the ear piercing on the right ear. The homosexuality-metro-sexuality conundrum is also explored, through the contemporary blurring of the lines of metro-sexuals and homosexuals, especially with the “pretty boy” culture that has been on the rise with Taiwanese, Japanese and South Korean pop. (Meteor Garden (2001) anyone?) Despite being a very subtle indication (15:00), it sets a very early tone for the show. Further, innuendoes such as extreme close physical proximity, everyday acts such as the ruffling of each other’s hair, sharing a drink and lines like “I played badly when you were gone” provide a clear indication that there is more to the relationship than that meets the eye.

The director has a penchant for using mirrors as a form of aesthetic treatment, and I cannot help but suggest that this could perhaps have a special underlying meaning. Mirrors reflect reality, only in an inverted manner. This is further seen in the sex scene between Jonathan and Carrie (19:00) that was framed within a mirror, as well as the slanted mirror scene at 25:12. Further, subtle nuances like a train emerging out of a tunnel could be said to suggest the act of coming out of the closet into the open. Erstwhile, the scene has Carrie and Jonathan captured traveling backwards rather than forwards, seated against the direction of movement of the train. This could represent a shift in dynamics in the burgeoning love triangle. In a separate scene (27:53), the dim lighting in the room where Carrie and Jonathan are studying, the only source of light comes from Shane’s bedroom when he is sleeping. Could this probably symbolize the source of light in his life? This is in stark contrast to the subsequent scene when he was with Carrie, as both their faces were shrouded in the shadows of darkness, suggesting despair of some sort.

Prison imagery at 30:42 feature window grilles, staircase railings and gates that are used to frame the characters. Could this symbolize entrapment in the present status of their relationship, and how it is difficult for them to move on without hurting the feelings of anybody?

The colors in the movie are generally cold and dreary at the start of the show, when Jonathan is with Shane or Carrie. But there is a notable change of colors midway through the movie when Carrie opens herself up to Shane. Here, the warm reddish hue is used, thus presenting the scene in a more humane light (41:00), as compared to the gloom previously. This contrast in lighting is further evident in a later scene with Shane and Jonathan having a conversation in the former’s bedroom before the earthquake occurred (52:40). Shane, with his emotional crisis was cast in cold, harsh, bluish lighting in contrast to Jonathan’s warm lighting. The warm light later disappears with the earthquake, and the ensuing scene is shrouded with the cold, harsh bluish light. Of all the scenes, the scene where Jonathan and Shane finally make out was the warmest in terms of the color scheme and palette. This time round, Carrie was the one cast under the cold, dreary lighting (1:19:00).

Through an analysis of all the various elements and stylistic treatments such as colors for instance, it is a pretty good way to round up the film by saying that Eternal Summer could really have been more provocative. Aside from the short and restrained bed scene between Shane and Jonathan, there isn’t much to be found either. Perhaps it is the intense hype that always surrounds the release of a homosexual movie – and Director Leste Chen opts to rather buck this trend by focusing on the essentials of the relationship that matter rather than resorting to sensationalist tactics. We see Shane and Jonathan more as human beings who need each other’s love. Underscoring the whole film is a very engaging soundtrack with some beautiful pictures, à la the landscape shots of green meadows and fields that are akin to beautiful scenic photography off a postcard. The atmosphere strikes your heart, and you cannot help but feel touched by the drama that pierces through your soul, the mood created with the natural charisma and chemistry of the actors.

References

Matthijs, N. (2010, January 6). Eternal Summer review. Retrieved on December 1, 2010, from http://twitchfilm.com/reviews/2010/01/eternal-summer-review.php.

The Hole (1998) 洞

Country: Taiwan
Language: Mandarin, Taiwanese
Director: Tsai Ming-Liang
Running Time: 95 minutes
Starring: Yang Kuei-Mei, Lee Kang-sheng

Theme: Culture (People-People Relations)

Ratings: IMDb.com: 7.6/10 | Rotten Tomatoes: 80%

Film Festivals:
1998 Cannes Film Festival
1998 Chicago International Film Festival
1999 Singapore International Film Festival
1998 Sitges Catalonian International Film Festival

Awards:
1998 Cannes Film Festival: FIPRESCI Prize
(for its daring combination of realism and apocalyptic vision, desperation and joy, austerity and glamour)
1998 Chicago International Film Festival: Gold Hugo for Best Film
1999 Singapore International Film Festival: Silver Screen Award for Best Asian Actress (Yang Kuei-Mei, for the subtlety and sophistication of her performance in the role of a woman determined to hurdle the stresses of urban life)
1999 Singapore International Film Festival: Silver Screen Award for Best Asian Director (Tsai Ming-Liang, for his creation of a new cinematic expression which challenges the very meaning of human existence)
1999 Singapore International Film Festival: Silver Screen Award for Best Asian Feature Film (for its intelligent exploration of the spectrum of human experience in both dismal reality as well as in the realm of imagination)
1998 Sitges Catalonian International Film Festival: Grand Prize of European Fantasy Film in Silver

Nominations:
1998 Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or
1998 Sitges Catalonian International Film Festival: Best Film

The Hole (1998) is a morose tale of how two strangers living in close proximity to each other are forced to acknowledge each other’s existence in what are perverse conditions of that time. It is the turn of the new millennium, and while jitters abound at that time with regard to the unleash of the Y2K bug that might potentially create havoc within computer systems all around the world, in The Hole it takes the form of a strange disease. Setting the mood is the never-ending typhoon rain that lashes down outside the apartment where most of the scenes occur in, a scenario at once depressing and further accentuating the humdrum ordinary existence of the two individuals. They live in their own pads, leading their own separate unexceptional lives, and their own mediocre existence rearing its ugly head in a lonely comme ci, comme ça state. The taciturn duo are neighbors in an apartment block, with the man living above the woman, and their lodging is not only bijou, but also in a mess. As the saying goes ‘there is no place like home’, but the two lead characters look like they’d rather be someplace else, only having to return there because of the average nature of their respective lives.

Their names are never given much prominence throughout the show, and if I am not wrong, we never learn the name of Yang Kuei-Mei who acts as the woman living downstairs. The man upstairs, in a wonderful turn by Lee Kang-sheng, is Hsiao-kang, and this is only revealed through necessary dialogue that exists in his everyday life. We have also explored such an added veil of anonymity in The Taste of Cherry (1997) by Abbas Kiarostami in which the motivation of the protagonist’s intent to commit suicide is hidden, whilst in Raise the Red Lantern (1991) by Zhang Yimou the face of the husband remains obscured for the entire show. What this serves to add, aside from the facetious reason of adding to an aura of mystique, is to create a sense of detachment of the viewer from what is going on onscreen. Of course, the director runs the risk of alienating the audience from the fare on screen, but what eventually prevails is the subtlety and sophistication of powerful performances with attention dedicated to minute detail as the characters go through the stresses of urban life. Their drab surroundings, indeed, as the film notes of the 1999 Singapore International Film Festival write, “challenge(s) the very meaning of human existence” in an “intelligent exploration of the spectrum of human experience in both dismal reality as well as in the realm of imagination”.

The woman downstairs is prone to escapism tendencies. She has her own song-and-dance routine in her daydreams, where she performs à la a caberet dancer, perhaps her only form of expression in an otherwise repressive and apocalyptic world. A plumber arrives at Hsiao-Kang’s apartment to check the pipes, in an event that strangely involves the drilling of a small hole into the ceiling of the woman downstairs. And this is Hsiao-Kang’s moment of respite. The hole becomes a rubbish chute, it becomes an avenue for him to dangle his legs and engage in a myriad of weird stuff that hinges on the brink of insanity. And it becomes an avenue for him to spy on his neighbor.

There is minimal dialogue throughout the dreary show. The characters keep to themselves in spite of (or because of) the apocalyptic conditions they find themselves in. Many long takes that envelope the shadows and dreariness of the apartment and the man’s store, cast in muted hues of mostly whites, fluorescent blues, greys, and blacks create a sense of alienation and loneliness, with the exception of the dance sequences that explode in a flurry of colors.

The strange disease continually lurks in the shadows of everyday existence, and the severity of it all a foreshadow of the subsequent SARS that impacted the region several years on. In what is tantamount to an epidemic, we see how little help is given to these lost and aimless struggling residents. They were ordered to evacuate the rundown apartment they put up in, but they chose to stay put – how little power the government can exert over their citizens in times of such epidemic where quarantine is necessary is indeed baffling and perhaps a running thread that begs investigation. As the walls (or floors) crumble, what’s left of the reclusive human existence can only be oneself. A brutal satire of the lack of communication fuelled by the technological age with everyone isolated in their own bubble fantasies, this absurdity of everyday life has never been clearer through the polarization as in this scene.

 

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) 臥虎藏龍

Country: Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, USA
Language: Mandarin
Director: Ang Lee
Running Time: 120 minutes
Starring: Chow Yun-fatt, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi, Chang Chen

Theme: Culture (wuxia pian)

Ratings: IMDb.com: 8.0/10 | Rotten Tomatoes: 97% | Metacritic.com: 93/100

Film Festivals:
2000 Bergen International Film Festival
2000 Ghent International Film Festival
2000 Toronto International Film Festival

(Selected) Awards:
2001 Academy Awards: Oscar for Best Art Direction/Best Cinematography/Best Foreign Language Film/Best Music, Original Score
2001 Australian Film Institute: Best Foreign Film Award
2001 BAFTA Awards: Best Costume Design, Best Film Not in the English Language
2001 Directors Guild of America Award: Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures
2001 Golden Globe Awards: Best Director – Motion Picture, Best Foreign Language Film
2000 Golden Horse Film Festival: Best Film
2001 Hong Kong Film Awards: Best Director, Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (Cheng Pei-Pei)
2000 Toronto International Film Festival: Best Director (Ang Lee0

(Selected) Nominations:
2001 Academy Awards: Oscar for Best Costume Design/Best Director/Best Editing/Best Music, Original Song/Best Picture
2001 Art Directors Guild: Excellence in Production Design Award for a Feature Film
2001 BAFTA Awards: Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Film, Best Actress (Michelle Yeoh), Best Supporting Actress (Zhang Ziyi)
2000 Golden Horse Film Festival: Best Actress (Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi), Best Director, Best Film
2001 Hong Kong Film Awards: Best Actor (Chow Yun-Fatt), Best Actress (Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi)

Released at the start of the millennium, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a Chinese language martial arts (wuxia) film directed by Ang Lee. It features an international cast of ethnic Chinese actors such as Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh and Zhang Ziyi. The movie was based on the fourth installment in a series of novels – the Crane Iron Pentalogy – by early 20th century novelist Wang Du Lun. A multinational production with investments from Taiwan, Hong Kong, China and USA, the film is credited to these four countries although the Oscar for the Best Foreign Language Picture was accredited to Taiwan in the end. But this could prove to be an interesting case study of how countries want to gain co-ownership of a movie that does well in the international circuit, but this urge is of less important amongst co-productions that do not become as prominent on a global scale. [Point in note: I’ve always thought of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as a Taiwanese film, and it is only through my research for these film notes that I realize the involvement of other countries]

Set amid the Qing dynasty, the story revolves around martial arts master Li Mu Bai, who embarks on a quest for revenge in his attempt to recover Green destiny, a seemingly invincible weapon. Along the way, he meets with resistance from a host of people, including his arch-nemesis Jade Fox and Jen.

Despite its largely ridiculous storyline, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon did a magnificent job in terms of its martial arts portrayal. It was, as Park (2001) so aptly put it, “a rare example of fearless yet thoughtful experimentation by veteran filmmakers”, especially when we consider that this was director Ang Lee’s first experience with martial arts films. The camerawork is artful but not showy. Every shot is designed to sustain the illusion of reality.

One of the film’s features that really stood out was its heavy use of wirework. A controversial issue amongst martial arts movie fans, wirework is traditionally seen as cheesy and over-exaggerated. It dramatizes the characters’ actions and movements unnecessarily and makes everything seem really incredulous. However, in the case of Crouching Tiger, its extensive use of wirework actually came across rather positively and it blended well together with the dance-like choreography of the characters’ movements without going overboard. As Zacharek (2000) aptly says, “the camera work is artful but not showy, every shot is designed to sustain the illusion of reality”. Testament to this was the memorable sword fight sequence between Li and Jen where they were ‘flying’ high up in the lush greenery of tall bamboo trees. Most of this is largely due to the work of Yuen Wo-Ping, a highly revered choreographer who worked on big films such as Jet Li’s Fist of Legend (1994) and The Matrix (1999).

Another feature that struck me was the film’s stunning cinematography – with its breath-taking use of locations such as Beijing’s Forbidden City, the Gobi Desert and stunning shots of snow-capped mountains, all of which play a big part in conveying the epic scope that the story demands. Together with the enthralling soundtrack, viewers are treated to an imaginary China that is both lush and ethereal.

Personally, I felt that the movie was visually and aesthetically brilliant, but it could have been better had it adopted a more consistent tone throughout. I’m not sure if it was part of director Ang Lee’s strategy to create a film that straddled between being an art house film and a kung fu theatrical, but what we got (at times) is a film that swings unevenly between emotional melodrama and physical brawls. This could have been due to director Ang Lee’s background prior to Crouching Tiger, where his films were all built on highly personal levels that dealt with the detailed complexities of relationships and the conflicts that arise from them.

That aside, the entertaining mix of action, romance and the exotic settings gave the movie a very wide appeal and created a highly pleasant viewing experience that will entertain almost all audience.

References

Park, S. (2001, January 20). Review: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Retrieved on November 5, 2010, from http://www.culturekiosque.com/nouveau/cinema/rhetiger.html

Zacherek, S. (2000, December 8). Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Retrieved on November 5, 2010, from http://www.salon.com/entertainment/movies/review/2000/12/08/crouching_tiger/

 

Monga (2010) 艋舺

Country: Taiwan
Language: Taiwanese (Hokkien), Mandarin
Director: Doze Niu
Running Time: 140 minutes
Starring: Mark Chao, Ethan Ruan, Rhydian Vaughan, Huang Teng-hui

Theme: Crime/Gangsterism

Ratings: IMDB.com: 7.1/10

Film Festivals:
2010 Berlin International Film Festival (Panorama)
2010 Taipei Film Festival
2010 Hawaii International Film Festival
2010 Tokyo International Film Festival
2010 Stockholm International Film Festival

Awards:
2010 Golden Horse Awards: Best Actor (Ethan Ruan) / Outstanding Taiwanese Filmmaker of the Year (Lee Lieh, producer) / Best Sound Effects
2010 Taipei Film Festival: Best Art Direction
2010 Hawaii International Film Festival: Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema Award
2010 Stockholm International Film Festival: Telia Film Award

Nominations:
2010 Golden Horse Awards: Best Original Film Score / Best Art Direction / Outstanding Taiwanese Filmmaker of the Year (Doze Niu)
2010 Taipei Film Festival: Best Actor (Mark Chao, Ethan Ruan) / The Grand Prize
2010 Tokyo International Film Festival: Best Asian-Middle Eastern Film Award [lost to Israel’s Intimate Grammar by Nir Bergman]

  • Selected as Taiwan’s official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film for the 2011 Academy Awards.

There is without doubt a revival of Taiwanese commercial mainstream cinema that began with Cape No. 7 (2008) that managed to draw dwindling theatre audiences back to the cinemas for a local production. This upward trend is further bolstered with Monga (2010), a gangster film set in 1980s Taipei within Monga in the Wanhua District, an area akin to the seedy red light district of Geylang in Singapore with its chain of brothels and gang affiliations within the area. The key to this revival, I believe, lies in the nationalistic sentiments towards modern Taiwan, unquestionably fuelled by Mainland Chinese sentiments that the island once known as Formosa and that is formally named the Republic of China should fall under their control, which the fiercely-independent Taiwanese frown upon. Both movies are historical and somewhat indulges in the rich cultural heritage of Taiwan in their respective portrayals, whilst being mainstream fare that cast big names as their leading protagonists. Cape No. 7 had popular singers Van Fan and Rachel Liang while Monga has popular teen idols Ethan Ruan and Mark Chao who definitely played a major role in drawing crowds to the theatres. This formula can probably be referenced by dwindling national cinemas around the world. Monga, essentially isn’t exactly cookie-cutter mainstream fare with its dark and broody ongoing narrative.

Monga may be mainstream fare, but it doesn’t alienate alternative audiences as well – Director Doze Niu (鈕承澤) in his sophomore feature film directorial effort since the critically-acclaimed low-budget “What on Earth Have I Done Wrong?” (2007) that clinched a FIPRESCI Prize, and which told a story about a director attempting to canvass money so as to produce a mockumentary film. Casting upcoming actor Rhydian Vaughan from Winds of September (2008) which made it to Toronto International Film Festival was also wise. As a result, Monga cuts greater swarthe across the film festival circuit, being an official selection under the Panorama section of Berlin International Film Festival this year, whilst also playing in Hawaii, Tokyo and Stockholm. Not bad at all for an otherwise commercial movie that eventually opened during the Lunar New Year period in Taiwan, edging out the worldwide hit Avatar in its opening week.

Doze Niu straddles the fine line between criticizing the gang lifestyle and unnecessarily sensationalizing it in this movie, and as I watch the disquieting story unfold there is a sense of paramount importance of the environment plays in adding to the realism of the conventional story, which sets the movie apart in spite of its stereotypical story arc. Setting the story elsewhere would simply do injustice to the film. The sharply entertaining film is divided chiefly into three acts – that of initiation of Mosquito into the gang, the everyday processes the gang go through and lastly that of Monk’s betrayal, with the tone that is cast very different within these three acts. The first one is also the most engaging, as the greenhorn gangster learns the ropes of what it takes to be a gang member with the tone of black comedic wit.

A key scene occurs when the gang members play truant, sitting on the school fence pondering what to do for the day. Monk with his outstretched hand inviting Mosquito to join them (0:13:58), and  the clasp of the hand as he helps Mosquito up the wall (0:14:01). The camera lingers on the gaze between the two characters as they sit on the wall (0:14:04) in spite of the establishing lower-up shot that captures the other gang members. This sets the stone for the important relationship as it unfolds throughout the movie. Further, Mosquito’s seemingly innocuous action of looking back into the school ground as he jumps up the wall is a lasting symbolism of him bidding the old life farewell. And this key scene is recaptured in the final moments of the film. But the way the film has transcended conveys a melancholic feel to this flashback.

Two metaphors are prevalent throughout the whole film. They are the yo-yo which Monk gave to Mosquito which the latter can be seen holding and playing with throughout most of the film as an indication of the status of their friendship, which sometimes seem to harbor subtle homosexual connotations in terms of how close the characters are (and as testament to that the actors Mark Chao and Ethan Ruan kissed whilst on a local variety show to promote the film). Also, the Japanese Sakura flower bloom as something that Mosquito wants to personally witness at least once in his life, with his (apparently) late father in a postcard, pasted in Mosquito’s wardrobe, that is set against the flower bloom. This is given absolute significance in the final scene as the wounded Mosquito lies on the ground, while Monk was shot by the other gang members, his blood spatter blending into the sakura (2:12:51).

The fight scenes are beautifully shot and framed, sometimes in many lengthy shots interspersed with sweeping close-ups that capture the realism of the blows and punches, cast against slow motion techniques and a soft instrumental accompaniment in what really is Mosquito’s coming-of-age tale. A young prostitute bearing a birthmark on her face that she desperately tries to hide from her clients was interweaved into the story as a separate narrative, Mosquito and herself teaching each other about the value of tenderness and love, with Air Supply’s Making Love Out of Nothing at All providing the ideal soundtrack to the scene.

But the resounding question remains: what next for Taiwanese cinema? How will it build on this ongoing momentum created by Cape No. 7 and Monga in creating more cinematic masterpieces that can withstand international competition, yet straddling the fine lines of arthouse and commercialism? Even Jay Chou’s Secret (2007) was a relatively beautiful work that was screened at the San Francisco International Film Festival in 2008. Will this eventually spark of another wave of filmmakers who will build on the legacy left by the Taiwanese New Wave filmmakers of Edward Yang and Hou Hsiao-Hsien in the 1980s which captured realistic, down-to-earth portrayals of Taiwanese life in stylistic treatments akin to the Italian neorealism movement? Only time will tell.