7 months ago
Imbued with mystery, sly humour, and an enormous heart, the latest film from visionary director Tsai Ming-liang (The Wayward Cloud) links together a series of sumptuously composed scenes that tell the story of a broken family living on the margins of Taipei society.

Though born in Malaysia and based in Taiwan, Festival favourite Tsai Ming-liang is, in the deepest sense, an international filmmaker. His films depend little on language or cultural knowledge. They reach us on the level of pure instinct, with elongated, tableau-like scenes, often without words; with ribald physical humour; with emotions too immense to be rushed — real tears take time. Stray Dogs displays all of Tsai’s boldest characteristics.

The film’s unspeakably beautiful first image — which seems to be a flash-forward to long after the story ends — captures a young woman in a verdant room, brushing her hair as two figures sleep behind her. From here we meet the film’s central characters, the vagabonds alluded to in the title. We see two children, brother and sister, traversing an ancient wood, or running along a golden beach. We see their father (Tsai regular Lee Kang-sheng) standing sentinellike in the middle of busy Taipei traffic, holding signs advertising luxury condominiums. The irony is that this family can’t even afford to rent a shoebox apartment.

Like Tsai’s sublime I Don’t Want to Sleep AloneStray Dogs plucks its characters from society’s margins; without sentimentalizing their subjects, these films exude empathy for day labourers and the homeless. As one mysterious, gorgeously composed scene gives way to the next, we come to know these characters, and something of their history, a time when they indeed had a home, a mother, a very different sort of life. We gaze into their past with them, are invited to share in their loss, and, gradually, imagine some brighter future. 

1 year ago 1 year ago
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? (Editor’s note: Stoked about this film! The second feature from my friend Alvin who made Au Revoir Taipei.)

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? (Editor’s note: Stoked about this film! The second feature from my friend Alvin who made Au Revoir Taipei.)

1 year ago
“Long before I met him, I was a fan of his writing, and his merciless wit. He’s bigger than food.”—Anthony Bourdain Eddie Huang is the thirty-year-old proprietor of Baohaus—the hot East Village hangout where foodies, stoners, and students come to stuff their faces with delicious Taiwanese street food late into the night—and one of the food world’s brightest and most controversial young stars. But before he created the perfect home for himself in a small patch of downtown New York, Eddie wandered the American wilderness looking for a place to call his own.  Eddie grew up in theme-park America, on a could-be-anywhere cul-de-sac in suburban Orlando, raised by a wild family of FOB (“fresh off the boat”) hustlers and hysterics from Taiwan. While his father improbably launched a series of successful seafood and steak restaurants, Eddie burned his way through American culture, defying every “model minority” stereotype along the way. He obsessed over football, fought the all-American boys who called him a chink, partied like a gremlin, sold drugs with his crew, and idolized Tupac. His anchor through it all was food—from making Southern ribs with the Haitian cooks in his dad’s restaurant to preparing traditional meals in his mother’s kitchen to haunting the midnight markets of Taipei when he was shipped off to the homeland. After misadventures as an unlikely lawyer, street fashion renegade, and stand-up comic, Eddie finally threw everything he loved—past and present, family and food—into his own restaurant, bringing together a legacy stretching back to China and the shards of global culture he’d melded into his own identity. Funny, raw, and moving, and told in an irrepressibly alive and original voice, Fresh Off the Boat recasts the immigrant’s story for the twenty-first century. It’s a story of food, family, and the forging of a new notion of what it means to be American.
Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir by Eddie Huang

“Long before I met him, I was a fan of his writing, and his merciless wit. He’s bigger than food.”—Anthony Bourdain 

Eddie Huang is the thirty-year-old proprietor of Baohaus—the hot East Village hangout where foodies, stoners, and students come to stuff their faces with delicious Taiwanese street food late into the night—and one of the food world’s brightest and most controversial young stars. But before he created the perfect home for himself in a small patch of downtown New York, Eddie wandered the American wilderness looking for a place to call his own.  

Eddie grew up in theme-park America, on a could-be-anywhere cul-de-sac in suburban Orlando, raised by a wild family of FOB (“fresh off the boat”) hustlers and hysterics from Taiwan. While his father improbably launched a series of successful seafood and steak restaurants, Eddie burned his way through American culture, defying every “model minority” stereotype along the way. He obsessed over football, fought the all-American boys who called him a chink, partied like a gremlin, sold drugs with his crew, and idolized Tupac. His anchor through it all was food—from making Southern ribs with the Haitian cooks in his dad’s restaurant to preparing traditional meals in his mother’s kitchen to haunting the midnight markets of Taipei when he was shipped off to the homeland. After misadventures as an unlikely lawyer, street fashion renegade, and stand-up comic, Eddie finally threw everything he loved—past and present, family and food—into his own restaurant, bringing together a legacy stretching back to China and the shards of global culture he’d melded into his own identity. 

Funny, raw, and moving, and told in an irrepressibly alive and original voice, Fresh Off the Boat recasts the immigrant’s story for the twenty-first century. It’s a story of food, family, and the forging of a new notion of what it means to be American.

Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir by Eddie Huang

1 year ago

Eddie Huang in Taiwan. Note to self, surf the waves the next time I’m there.

2 years ago

Taiwan Oyster

2 years ago
I cosign on Tsai Ing-wen of the pro-independence Democratic People’s party — who would be the first female president of Taiwan if elected.

I cosign on Tsai Ing-wen of the pro-independence Democratic People’s party — who would be the first female president of Taiwan if elected.

2 years ago

itwonlast:

A Rational Mind: The Films of Edward Yang

By DAVID HUDSON

In 1997 — three years before Yi Yi would introduce Edward Yang to most of those who know him at all, and ten years before Yang succumbed to colon cancer at the age of 59 — Barbara Scharres staged what was at the time a complete retrospective of his work in Chicago, prompting a pretty magnificent piece from Jonathan Rosenbaum in the Reader. He begins by imagining a “new kind of cinema” that would, as opposed to the predominant mode of proposing “various escapes from modern life,” instead “lead us back into the modern world and teach us something about it.” And in 1997, he was “discovering clues about this new kind of cinema in two very different places, chiefly through the films of Abbas Kiarostami and Mohsen Makhmalbaf in Iran and Hou Hsiao-hsien and Edward Yang in Taiwan.”

Needless to say, several intriguing paragraphs follow in which he compares and contrasts, pairs up and delineates these four figures until, eventually: “The most novelistic of the four directors, Yang is also in some ways the most challenging: his complex plots typically incorporate several crisscrossing narrative strands; he dares us to keep track of them all. Of the four he’s also the one most fully engaged with the problems of contemporary urban life, and the one most preoccupied with the relationship between his characters and both architecture and objects.” A Brighter Summer Day (1991), he argues, “belongs in the company of key works of our era: Kira Muratova's The Asthenic Syndrome; Béla Tarr's Sátántangó; Kiarostami’s Close-Up, Life and Nothing More, and Taste of Cherry; and Hou’s trilogy — City of Sadness, The Puppet Master, and Good Men, Good Women…. Indeed, Yang’s film surpasses these other masterpieces in its novelistic qualities, richly realizing a physical and social world as dense with family, community, and other personal ties as any John Ford film, and furnished with more sheer physical presence (including characters, settings, and objects) than any other fiction film I know of from the 90s. It took Yang four years to prepare — much of the time apparently spent training his superb cast, which is mainly composed of nonprofessionals. In fact, this film is so uncommonly good that Yang’s other very impressive works pale beside it.”

Again, Yi Yi had not yet been made. A deeper analysis of A Brighter Summer Day follows, leading into several solid paragraphs on other films in the oeuvre. All in all, a highly recommended read. For the moment, though, here’s Richard Brody in the current issue of the New Yorker on A Brighter Summer Day: “In the nearly four-hour span of this vast Proustian memory piece, from 1991, Edward Yang meticulously delineates the anguish of young people in Taipei in 1959 and the gang violence that pervades their lives…. Yang’s methods bring a melancholy tenderness to his recollections; he films long takes of action intricately staged in real time with a rueful, contemplative reserve, and, as in Proust, the physical objects to which he pays close attention — an American tape recorder, a radio from China, a Japanese sword, a flashlight stolen from the movie studio — both signify and effect the endurance of the past.”

"In all of his films, Yang examined the world through the cloudy prism of modern Taipei," wrote Godfrey Cheshire in the Voice when we lost Yang in 2007. Let’s have Cinespect's Ryan Wells interject here for a moment: “Usually when the talk moves to Yang there’s a very personal, melancholy longing for what could have been, all the while cherishing even more what we’ve been given. It’s very classic Yang, that pit you get in your stomach.”

Back to Cheshire: “Born in 1947 in southeastern China, he was brought to Taiwan by parents fleeing the Communist revolution.” Yang studied in the States and “worked briefly as a researcher in Seattle before an art-house encounter with Werner Herzog's Aguirre, the Wrath of God sent him back to Taiwan determined to be a filmmaker.” His “Urban Trilogy” — That Day, on the Beach (1983), Taipei Story (1985) and The Terrorizers (1986) — “drew comparisons to Antonioni and Godard for their intricately austere and stylistically adroit dissections of contemporary anomie. After the disappointing reception of the five-years-in-the-making A Brighter Summer Day, Yang shifted course. His next two films, A Confucian Confusion (1994) and Mahjong (1996), tried to give a comic spin to the director’s characteristic concern with the flux and disarray of life in Taipei. Though they suggested to some critics that Yang’s gift was not for comedy, the films led to the brilliant synthesis of Yi Yi (A One and a Two)… Though surely not intended as a summing-up, Yi Yi managed to combine the critical acuity of the Urban Trilogy and the affecting expansiveness of A Brighter Summer Day with the philosophical whimsy of his previous two films. A vision of family (and city) life as a mesh of precarious privacies, the three-hour bittersweet comedy won Yang a Best Director nod at Cannes as well as the Best Picture award from the National Society of Film Critics. It also earned Yang something he’d long deserved: a hearing with American filmgoers.”

"The fact that Yang is, to American audiences, synonymous with Yi Yi is startling because Yang’s films are all about process and gestation,” suggests Simon Abrams in Slant. “Like the Taipei of his films, Yang’s filmography is a body of work of and about progress, a body of themes and ideas that all come together in his swan song. In films like That Day, on the Beach and Taipei Story, Yang’s protagonists try to determine whether it’s better to tentatively withdraw from society or to enjoy both the perils and the ecstasies of fully engaging with the world outside their front door…. In later films, his characters are more capable of taking the highs of life with the lows. And that’s a good part of why Yi Yi is one of Yang’s most accomplished works; equal parts celebration and primal scream to modern domestic life in Taipei, it’s a mosaic of angst and love. It’s the apex of Yang’s oeuvre and a self-sufficient microcosm unto itself.”

2 years ago

Turn Left, Turn Right

2 years ago
Headed to Taiwan on a two week media press tour, all expenses paid. Riding a day (200km) of the Taiwan Cup race and getting race coverage for Embrocation Cycling Journal. Oh and stealing world-class boba recipes for Boba Guys. Updates will come via Twitter: YMFY.

Headed to Taiwan on a two week media press tour, all expenses paid. Riding a day (200km) of the Taiwan Cup race and getting race coverage for Embrocation Cycling Journal. Oh and stealing world-class boba recipes for Boba Guys. Updates will come via Twitter: YMFY.