Taipei Story 青梅竹馬
In booming Taipei, the seemingly bright future of a pair of childhood lovers is steadily weighed down by the past. Former baseball player Lung and yuppie career woman Chin face familial obligations, furtive lovers, and a growing sense of modern malaise to chase their elusive dreams of marriage and migration. The couple portray an affecting portrait of a generation and of a city caught in the throes of change.
About the director
An influential director of the 1980s New Taiwan Cinema movement, the late Edward Yang was the first Taiwanese auteur to win Cannes Festival’s Best Director award for his seventh film, Yi Yi (2000). The film was ranked on the Best Films of the Decade lists by Sight & Sound, The Village Voice, amongst others.
Born Te-Chang Yang in 1947 Shanghai, Yang’s family moved to Taipei when he was two years old. He studied electrical engineering and worked in computer design in Seattle. Returning to Taiwan in 1981, he co-directed the anthology film In Our Time (1982), regarded as the first film of the Taiwanese new wave.
His debut feature, That Day, on the Beach (1983), a modernist examination of Taiwanese society, set his trademark style and tropes. The film was thrice nominated at the Golden Horse Film Festival 1983. The Terrorizers (1986), about the fluid relationships of three couples was equally garlanded. A Brighter Summer Day (1991), about coming of age in 1960s Taipei, firmly established Yang as the “Antonioni of the East”. The satirical comedies, A Confucian Confusion (1994) and Mahjong (1996), were less well-received, but crucial in heralding his magnum opus, Yi Yi.
In 2007, Yang passed away from cancer at age 59. He was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2007 Golden Horse Festival.
Sources: Saul Austerlitz (Senses of Cinema), Ronald Bergan (The Guardian), Jonathan Landreth (Hollywood Reporter)
Film and Restoration
Taipei Story introduced Edward Yang’s directing-screenwriting talents to the West. Retrospectively, filmmakers regard it as a turning point in the Taiwanese new wave, cinematically fulfilling Yang’s goal of having his protagonists “represent the past and the future of Taipei… the transition from one to the other.”
Yang’s lead actor and friend, director Hou Hsiao-hsien, co-wrote the screenplay and helped finance Taipei Story, while Yang married his lead actress Tsai Chin. This sense of intimacy and close collaboration helped Yang achieve his painterly compositions in Taipei Story of de-personalised spaces and stark possibilities, where the lead characters were existentially stuck in new bedrooms, old family homes, at work, and on the streets. They attempt to relive their past glories and try to face up to crushing adult realities, even as dreams seem to disappear in the rapidly transforming city. The film won an international critics’ prize at the Locarno International Film Festival 1985.
Overseen by Hou, Taipei Story was restored under the Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project, in association with the Taiwan Film Institute and Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique. This 4K version premiered at the BAMcinématek in March 2017 and in Hong Kong at an Edward Yang retrospective in April 2017.
Sources: Andrew Chan (Criterion Collection), Daniel Eagan (Film Journal International), Janus Films