Taipei 21

Taipei 21


Reviewed by: Keith Hennessey Brown

Twentysomethings Jean and Hong have been together for seven years now. Their relationship is going nowhere in particular, talk of getting a place together and/or moving abroad remaining precisely that.

Then, in a bid to move the relationship along, Jean goes to put a down payment on an apartment. Hong, however, is unsupportive. Where will they find the money, given that he's already working two jobs - estate agent and barman in what amounts to an escort agency - and has enough trouble making ends meet as it is?

Copy picture

Thus the couple drift apart and explore their mutual and individual options, with Jean attempting to hook up with a rich businessman client, whose estranged wife and daughter are both abroad, and Hong finding himself responsible for getting rich Japanese Toshi to buy a property.

Will they come together or not?

Watch and find out...

Really, do, for if Taiwanese writer/director Alex Yang's sophomore feature lacks the ambitious scale of his debut, The Trigger, it nonetheless works beautifully in its own terms.

Barring a few self-conscious moments - that Toshi's ostensible interest in Taiwan is through its cinema, though thankfully his real motives finally give the lie here; or the overly schematic juxtaposition and repetition of certain key lines and situations - there's scarcely a moment to fault here, with writing, direction - reliant on decor, props and subtle mise en scene rather than showiness - and performances - otherwise utterly assured and believable.

Specific and general themes - the distinctive position of Taiwan, as that Western-looking capitalist enclave situated against a putatively communist China, wherein it is actually a crime to refer to Taiwan per se, against the universal struggles of the young to find their place in the world and come to terms with love and responsibilities - are likewise perfectly balanced. Thus, somehow, the discussion of otherwise familiar dramatic material - conflicts between love and money, male and female, self and other - are rendered fresh and invigorating.

Mark this one down as a minor key triumph for situation-based, observational and humanistic filmmaking.

Reviewed on: 22 Aug 2004
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Taipei 21 packshot
A twenty- something couple struggle with their relationship in modern Taiwan.

Director: Alex Yang

Writer: Alex Yang

Starring: Lin Meng-chin, Tsai Hsin-hung, Wang Shui-chuan, Toshimoto Fujii, David Mao, Lang Tsu-yun, Feng Yi-kang, Yao Chi-tong, Hsieh Menh-chu, Hsu Hui-ni

Year: 2004

Runtime: 96 minutes

Country: Taiwan


EIFF 2004

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If you like this, try:

Lost In Beijing
The Trigger