Taipei Story Screen 97 of 15 reviews

Taipei Story

1985

Taipei Story Poster
  • Edward Yang’s Taipei Story (1985) offers a classically Yangian portrait of Taiwanese alienation and quiet anxiety, fractured and plagued by modernization and Americanization, and starring co-writer Hou Hsiao-hsien... As always, Yang, whose second feature this was, shoots and cuts with a jeweler’s squint. It’s essentially perfect.

  • Of the four Yang films I've seen, this is loosest, but his loving eye comes through: actions that may seem paradoxical are instead human in a set of characters who have been deposited into adulthood and left to grapple with a mixture of indecision, insecurity, and regret. Note the bookended structure: empty rooms that promise a new life, but finally with a guarded distrust that the promise can be fulfilled.

  • The crown jewel of the collection is Taipei Story, arguably Edward Yang’s finest achievement.

  • Like A Brighter Summer Day and Yi Yi, Taipei Story is charged with the urgency of a director attempting to map out a whole society through the interlocking oppositions of gender, class, generation, and cultural persuasion that threaten to pull it apart. But whereas those later works boast the intricate plotting and ensemble acting that have led to his reputation as a novelistic director, Taipei Story is hollowed out and almost airless, qualities that make it feel that much more unforgiving.

  • Yang’s perspective imbues the narrative with a powerful, increasing sense of dread. The film’s finale lives up to that feeling, but in a way the viewer won’t see coming — very much like life itself. Ultimately, “Taipei Story” is bleak yet exhilarating. Yang’s vision was bitter, but hardly without compassion, and he pulls it off here with a quiet confidence that he used to yield greater dividends in his subsequent film, the even more complex “The Terrorizers” (1986).

  • A tiny wind-up toy shaped as a Pepsi-Cola can inching its way across a bedside table, Michael Jackson's "Baby Be Mine" emanating from an unseen jukebox while a tussle breaks out during a darts toss in a bar: Even the smallest details are ineradicable in Taipei Story, Edward Yang's aching and anomic second feature, from 1985.

  • A stylish Antonioni-esque drama of urban alienation, set among the affluent Western-oriented professional class in newly modernizing Taipei and concerning an angst-ridden couple, played by Yang’s Taiwanese new wave colleague Hou Hsiao-hsien and the pop singer Tsai Chin, later Yang’s wife.

  • A masterpiece that historically hasn’t been easy to see in the States. A delicate work of low-key modernism, imbued with fragile melancholia and an astonishing turn by none other than Hou Hsiao-hsien in the male lead, the restoration of Taipei Story will likely go a long way toward reaffirming its rightful place as one of the key films produced in southeast Asia near the end of the 20th century, on a par with Yang’s towering (both in terms of stature and duration) A Brighter Summer Day (1991).

  • Taipei Story’s ability to capture and comment on Taiwanese society in accordance with cultural symbols such as Pepsi cans, “Footlose” and Michael Jackson leaves us with an eternal portrait of the city in 1985.

  • Captured with his typically restrained, lyrical sense of city and psyche, the late Yang’s first masterpiece solidified many of the tendencies he and Hou would continue to refine and redefine in their respective careers for the next decade-plus as contemporaries.

  • Yang's family came from the Shanghai middle-class (Having fled just after his birth), and he studied electrical engineering at the University of Florida. This helps to explain Yang’s depiction of Taipei as a distinctly global city—as well as the stinging sense of alienation that defines many of his characters. With the films of Michelangelo Antonioni as his chief inspiration, Yang cultivated a new Taiwanese film style that was, for the first time, in conversation with other national cinemas.

  • Yang’s artistry took a substantial leap forward with his next film, Taipei Story (1985). A greater fluidity of imagery, and an increased facility for relating sound and image, are on display in this film.

  • A turning point in the history of Taiwanese cinema, Edward Yang's 1985 masterpiece suggests a rough parallel with Abbas Kiarostami's Close-up in relation to Iranian cinema by virtue of featuring the other key Taiwanese filmmaker, Hou Hsiao-hsien, in a leading role, much as Mohsen Makhmalbaf is featured in Kiarostami's film.

  • It may not be the complete masterpiece that it has sometimes been hailed as—only a terrifically accomplished and affecting film that is one of many possible entry points into the work of a great filmmaker... Perhaps it isn’t as immediately atmospheric as That Day, On The Beach... But Yang’s genius lay in the diversity of scope, tone, and realistic detail, which is present in Taipei Story, but which his later films would handle more ambitiously and fluidly.

  • The city background is subtly used to explore the old theme of alienation which comes hard on the heels of the changes wrought in society by big business, consumerism and the new morality. Mute and slow-paced, this finely observed film contrasts traditional Chinese locations with modern westernized buildings and décor, and finds both empty and unsatisfactory. The tone is reminiscent of Wim Wenders.

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