Blu-Ray Review – Taipei Story
Founded by filmmaker Martin Scorsese in 2007, the World Cinema Project’s goal is to find, restore and preserve films from around the world. To date the non-profit organization has restored over 750 films from around the globe. Working in coordination with the Criterion Collection, the World Cinema Project has now released 12 movies. The first six: Touki Bouki, Redes, A River Called Titas, Dry Summer, Trances and The Housemaid were released as volume No. 1. Volume No. 2 containing: Insiang, Mysterious Object at Noon, Revenge, Limite, Law of the Border, and Taipei Story has now dropped giving us six more gems of classic and obscure cinema from various countries, in some cases having survived authoritarian regimes deliberate attempts at suppression and destruction.
While this is a boxset with the films presented together, each movie is wholly of itself unique and speaks to specific ideas and emotions that embody the people who made them.
The second feature from Taiwanese filmmaker Edward Yang tells the story of a couple struggling with their relationship while both individually try to figure out their place in a changing society caught between the old and the new. Solemn, subdued in tone and deliberate in pace, Yang weaves a down-tempo melodrama about a relationship around social commentary concerning the microcosm of generations at odds with each other in a growing, industrialized city.
Chin (Tsai Chin) is a real estate agent looking for a foothold in an industry that like everything around her is struggling between a city that wants progress and one that’s comfortable where it was. Lung (filmmaker Hou Hsiao-hsien) is an ex-professional baseball player who is mired in the glory days of his past which prevents him from finding motivation and direction forward. Their relationship is partitioned into encounters that feel more like meetings of obligation as opposed to lovers building a family. They both bring a sense of hopelessness that becomes alleviated by the prospect of leaving Taiwan and going to America. Both an escape from a city that seems to have no place for them and a chance for renewal together, America becomes a representation of a better possibility.
With a deft sense of control, there’s a building anticipation of resolution that Yang imposes on the atmosphere that feels not unlike that of suspense. Although, all together not suspenseful, there is a hidden danger lurking just out of focus. Lung eventually pursues the prospect of America and travels there to begin establishing a working relationship with his brother-in-law. His return is marked by one of the movie’s most striking scenes in which Lung describes to Chin how America is much more a dangerous and racist place than expected. His description about attitudes of race sound like observations made by the Black Lives Matter movement. Searing in its honesty towards the grotesquery of prejudice, the moment reflects an attitude of pragmatism towards the hope that lies in escape. A statement to true escape being an accounting of one’s actions now, while also a biting critique of an inherent blight in the culture of America.
Co-written by Yang and Hou, along with Chu Tien-wen, a seemingly simple tale of relationship woe, is scripted out with a dense layering of metaphor, tightly interwoven into subtlety and malaise. Yang, who studied for a short time at the USC film school and went on to work in computers in Seattle, eventually returned to Taiwan and began making films in the early 80s. Bringing an expanded sense of worldview to the film provides an unique intimacy to the criticism that Yang is pointedly making that feels more heartbreaking than the relationship at the center of the story.
This comes in a 4k scan from both the original film and audio negatives and is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. It looks and sounds better than it’s ever looked on home video, this also being the first time it’s been given a proper release in the U.S.
Special features come in the form of a discussion between Hou Hsiao-hsien and fellow filmmaker Edmond Wong along with an introduction to the film by Martin Scorsese.