Sunday, October 14, 2018

Running Away is Not a Solution

Taipei Story (1985) - Yang
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It is hard to let go of old ways. Taipei Story tells the story of Lung (Hou Hsiao Hsien) and Chin (Tsai Chin), an on and off childhood sweethearts adulting in the fast changing world. And it's a good one.

Lung just got back from living in California and finding it way too easy and comfortable slipping in to old ways - managing his father's fabric shop, visiting his old baseball coach and reminiscing good old times with Chin's father. It seems Lung left Taiwan because of his love Gwan (Ko Su-Yun) chose Kobayashi over him and moved to Japan. Chin, working at a classy architecture firm as an assistant to powerful Mme. Mei, finds herself out of the job after a company takeover. Chin decided to take some time off, hoping that now Lung's back, maybe they can get together and move to Cali. In the mean time, she hangs out with her little sister's motorcycle riding group of youngsters. And this provides some of the most memorable visual sequences in the film.

Still bound by tradition and loyalty, Lung blows an opportunity partnering with his brother-in-law in Cali by lending his nest egg money to Chin's father who is a sentimental drunkard and helping his old buddy who now drives a cab to make ends meet. Lung hates all these sinewy old connections in Taipei, but realizes running away is not the solution. You can't run away from who you are.

Chin's brief fling with her married co-worker doesn't go anywhere and she gets super jealous when Gwan visits the city. And her shenanigans with cram school kids brings more complications when one of the boys taking a liking to her. Where is her prince charming, her knight with shining armor to take her away from all this clinginess? Always hiding behind her dark shades, Chin wants very much to be free.

Somehow I could see the ending from a mile away. But don't matter, Taipei Story is a terrific film with great characters charting growing pains of 30 somethings in a specific city which also happens to be very universal. Hou is amazing as Lung, a moody man with a chip on his shoulder.

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