A Living and Breathing ‘Taipei Story’

By Tristen Calderon, Staff Writer

Edward Yang’s 1985 feature “Taipei Story” presents the city of Taipei from a very relatable, human perspective that is definitively middle-class. Restored in stunning 4K resolution for its first US theatrical run at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, “Taipei Story” takes a wide-scope look in to the subtle nuances of human living and loving. In a soft but very direct composition, Yang’s style is immediately distinguishable as influenced by major American cinema in and around his own era of operation.

The story follows Lung, who has recently returned to Taipei from a corporate meeting in America. Upon his return, he is reminded of the ease of life in his younger years and must battle an unreasonable loyalty to his past and a lack of commitment to his future. His successful, beautiful and committed partner, Chin, is already experiencing her own doubts concerning her career and her future. The couple’s relationship is pushed to the limit as external and internal forces challenge their feelings for others and each other.

With a natural and subtle style, Yang brings the viewer very close to this real and dramatic story. Strong performances, particularly from fellow filmmaker Hsiao-Hsien Hou, keep the audience not only attentive but invested in the lives of the characters. Adept sound design captures the atmosphere of this big city while still keeping a bit of mystery in its darkest corners and darkest moments. The soundtrack of music was precisely chosen and placed to help communicate the big-city atmosphere.

The characters are motivated by common, relatable issues, though the film maintains a mysterious engagement with the audience. At a young age, Yang exhibits a raw talent for the composition of a scene. His camerawork and direction create many memorable moments and visuals that pair beautifully with the strong and subtextual dialogue of Chu Tien-wen and Hou Hsiao-hsien.

“Taipei Story” captures a faraway world and artfully approaches the West. With a sizeable portion of narrative and style influenced by America, the film is multifaceted and appeals on many levels. The United States itself distracts, promises, and delivers very different things to the characters and serves almost as mirror for Taipei in the performance of the setting. Frequent emphasis and subversion of reflexivity is present in Yang’s work, though his style offers an attractive diffidence that is surprising as well as magnetic.

Though not Yang’s most critically-praised work, his second feature film ventures admirably into the capabilities of cinema and possesses a natural talent. For existing fans of the New Wave, it is definitely worth the watch in hyperreal 4K. For new fans looking for exposure into international film, this slow burn provides a modest foray with its honest and dramatic visualization of the complications that arise between all people. If you enjoyed this film, definitely watch Yang’s later works. If you didn’t enjoy it, still give his later films a shot.

“Taipei Story” is running through March 23 at the BAM Rose Cinema at 30 Lafayette Ave. in Brooklyn.

Email Tristen Calderon at film@nyunews.com.


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