Taiwan, 2011, colour (I-IV, VI-XX)/b&w (V, XIV), 1.85:1 (I-VIII, X-XX)/2.35:1 (IX), 114 mins.
Directors: Wang Tong 王童 (I), Wu Nianzhen 吴念真 (II), Wei Desheng 魏德圣 (III), Zheng Wentang 郑文堂 (IV), Shen Keshang 沈可尚 (V), Wang Xiaodi 王小棣 (VI), Chen Yuxun 陈玉勋 (VII), Zhang Aijia 张艾嘉 [Sylvia Chang] (VIII), Zhu Yanping 朱延平 (IX), Chen Guofu 陈国富 (X), Zhang Zuoji 张作骥 (XI), Zheng Youjie 郑有杰 (XII), He Weiting 何蔚庭 [Ho Wi Ding] (XIII), Hou Jiran 侯季然 (XIV), Dai Liren 戴立忍 [Leon Dai] (XV), Zhong Menghong 钟孟宏 (XVI), Yang Yazhe 杨雅喆 (XVII), Xiao Yaquan 萧雅全 (XVIII), Chen Junlin 陈骏霖 [Arvin Chen] (XIX), Hou Xiaoxian 侯孝贤 (XX).
Largely interesting collection of shorts showcasing older and younger Taiwan talent.
I: The Ritual 谢神. Two brothers (Cai Mingxiu, Xie Qiwen) trek up to a hilltop shrine to pay their respects in a special way. II: A Grocery Called Forever 有家小店叫永久. As business is slowly dying at a family roadside shop, the mother and son make a bet on its future. III: Debut 登场. The personal thoughts of Seediq priest Lin Qingtai, as he sets out to attend the premiere of Warriors of the Rainbow 赛德克•巴莱, in which he stars, at the 2011 Venice Film Festival. IV: Old Man & Me 老人与我. Old Fang (Lai Ajie) goes missing on a walk one day and his fellow villagers hunt for him. V: Bus Odyssey 到站停车. The young driver (Xie Xinying) of a country bus is a stickler for the rules, even when a young man tries to board between stops. VI: Destined Eruption 释放. A young man (Kou Jiarui) pops up in the hotel room of a woman (Liao Wenli) one night in Taidong. VII: Hippocamp Hair Salon 海马洗头. After a traumatic love affair, Liu Qi (Li Lie) goes to the salon of a hairdresser (Ke Yizheng) who specialises in “memory washes”. VIII: The Dusk of the Gods 诸神的黄昏. A preacher remembers the case of a 20-year-old man on death row. IX: The Orphans 无国籍公民. A disabled girl, Andai (Zhang Fangyi), and blind man live on the streets of Burma, abandoned by the Chinese Nationalist Army after WW2. X: The Debut 初登场. Taibei, 1968: a 15-year-old singer (Zeng Peiyu), upset after making a mistake during a TV rehearsal, is comforted by an older star (Wang Dingzhu) who says she’ll be famous throughout Asia one day. XI: Sparkles 1949穿过黑暗的火花. Jinmen island: an elderly woman, Chun, recalls her memories as a girl (Wu Liyuan) during the fierce Battle of Kuningtou, in Oct 1949, in which Nationalist forces repelled Communist ones. XII: Unwritten Rules 潜规则. A film crew on location try to remove a large representation of the Taiwan flag, so the film can be shown in China. XIII: 100 100. A 100-year-old man (Zheng Jinshan) walks every day along a mountain road to collect his post. XIV: Green Island Serenade 小夜曲. Taibei, 1954: people listen in a park as young Ji Luxia (Jian Manshu) sings Green Island Serenade 绿岛夜曲 from the China Broadcasting Studio, and 57 years later she (Ji Luxia) is still singing it. XV: Key Key. A young woman, Li (Gui Lunmei), experiences the world as she waits in the foyer of her apartment building. XVI: Reverberation 回音. The uncle (Dai Liren) of a bullied schoolboy pays a visit to the home of the tormentor’s parents (Gao Jie, Lu Yijing). XVII: The Singing Boy 唱歌男孩. Though severely punished by teachers, a schoolboy Li Guanyi) still continues to sing, and attracts the admiration of a female classmate (Qiu Qinquan). XVIII: Something’s Gotta Give 有一好没二好. A young woman (Lin Chenxi) on her way to a wedding dinner drops into a clothes shop and asks the sales clerk (Wang Pinhan) to help her with a problem. XIX: Lane 256 256巷14号5楼之1. An engaged couple (Zhang Xiaoquan, Zhang Shaohan) discuss their relationship as their washing machine is perilously hoisted up to their new flat. XX: La Belle Epoque 黄金之弦. In an old house in Tongluo town, northern Taiwan, a young woman (Shu Qi) hears the memories of her great-grandmother (Mei Fang).
Though, like all anthology films, 10+10 十加十 is an uneven ride, there’s only ever five minutes to wait until the next bus comes along, and the overall balance is much more on the credit than debit side. Most of all, the compilation of 20 shorts is a valuable snapshot of the island’s film-makers at a time when the industry has left behind its arthouse ghetto of the 1990s and has established a small but vibrant production scene of genuine diversity.
Despite being produced by the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival and having a title that also conveniently recalls “Double Ten” 双十 – the name for Taiwan’s National Day on 10 Oct – the result isn’t a flag-waving exercise for the island republic. The 20 writer-directors have essentially ignored the suggested theme of the “uniqueness of Taiwan” and come up with compact, individualistic packages that – especially for anyone looking for a quick introduction to contemporary Taiwan cinema – form a convenient crib. Though some names are unfortunately missing (where are Lin Xiaoqian 林孝谦 [Gavin Lin], Lin Shuyu 林书宇 [Tom Lin] or Deng Yongxing 邓勇星? and where, one may ask, is Malaysia-born Cai Mingliang 蔡明亮?), the list of directors has been quite well balanced, with the more commercial side represented by Zhu Yanping 朱延平, veterans by Zhang Aijia 张艾嘉 [Sylvia Chang], Wang Tong 王童, Chen Guofu 陈国富, Wu Nianzhen 吴念真 and Hou Xiaoxian 侯孝贤, and new blood like Chen Junlin 陈骏霖 [Arvin Chen] and Hou Jiran 侯季然 in the rich mix. The film is also a fine showcase for cameramen, including talented NYU graduate Jake Pollock 包轩鸣, who worked on two segments.
More surprisingly, some names don’t come up with quite what one might expect. In The Dusk of the Gods 诸神的黄昏, Zhang, adapting a 2006 work of the same name by essayist Lv Zhengda 吕政达, provides a reflective study of a priest’s memories of a young man facing the death sentence; in The Orphans 无国籍公民 (the only episode in widescreen) Zhu lets loose with some flashy action but caps it with a strong political message that does Taiwan no favours; while Zhang Zuoji 张作骥, better known for artier stuff, stages some impressive (and violent) military action in Sparkles 1949穿过黑暗的火花, set during a famous battle between Nationalists and Communists on Jinmen island in 1949.
Both Sparkles and Orphans desperately need some sort of captioning to make them understandable to non-Chinese audiences, as does the rather subversive sketch, Unwritten Rules 潜规则 by Zheng Youjie 郑有杰, to make the final joke work. At the other end of the scale, Key by Dai Liren 戴立忍 [Leon Dai] and Destined Eruption 释放 by Wang Xiaodi 王小棣 seem like indulgent vignettes-à-clef, 100 by Malaysian-born He Weiting 何蔚庭 [Ho Wi Ding] an exercise in too-easy minimalism, and Debut 登场 by Wei Desheng 魏德圣 a glorified ad for his Warriors of the Rainbow 赛德克•巴莱 (2011). The best exponents of the short-film format, with neat punch-lines, include the sly opening segment, The Ritual 谢神 by veteran Wang Tong, which gets the film off to a lovely start, and Green Island Serenade 小夜曲 by Hou Jiran, which mixes nostalgia and poetry in the simplest and most effective way.
However, the prize for the most perfectly realised segment must go to the midway The Debut 初登场 by Chen Guofu, which, though it needs an end-caption to explain the whole point for most non-Asians, plays like a feature film in miniature, with luscious cinematography by Pollock, a spot-on period look, and memorable playing by actresses Zeng Peiyu 曾佩瑜 and Wang Dingzhu 王丁筑.
Presented by Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival (TW). Produced by Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival Executive Committee (TW).
Script: Wang Tong (I); Wu Nianzhen (II); Wei Desheng (III); Zheng Wentang (IV); Shen Keshang (V); Wang Xiaodi (VI); Chen Yuxun (VII); Zhang Aijia [Sylvia Chang] (VIII); Zhu Yanping (IX); Chen Guofu (X); Zhang Zuoji (XI); Zheng Youjie (XII); He Weiting [Ho Wi Ding] (XIII); Hou Jiran (XIV); Dai Liren [Leon Dai] (XV); Zhong Menghong (XVI); Yang Yazhe (XVII); Xiao Yaquan (XVIII); Chen Junlin [Arvin Chen] (XIX); Hou Xiaoxian (XX). Essay: Lv Zhengda (VIII). Photography: Feng Xinhua (I); Wang Chunming (II); Liao Jingyao (III, XII); Huang Hongqi, Wang Yanni, Jiang Yining (III); Zhang Yifeng (IV); Jian Youtao (V); Huang Tianren (VI); Hu Shishan (VII); Lin Bingcun (VIII); Pan Yaoming (IX); Jake Pollock (X, XIII); Li Jianhong, Zhang Yiming (XI); Guan Benliang [Kwan Pun-leung] (XIV); Zhang Xiangyu (XV); Zhong Menghong (XVI); Zhou Yixian (XVII); Lin Zheqiang (XVIII); Yu Jingping (XIX); Yao Hongyi (XX). Editing: Lai Mengjie (I); Lin Yongyi (II); Chen Xiaodong (III, VI, X, XVII); Zhang Yifeng (IV); Huang Guanjun (V); Wei Haozhi (VII); Zhang Aijia [Sylvia Chang], Sky Dominic (VIII); Chen Bowen (IX); Zhang Zuoji (XI); Xu Hongyuan (XII); Xu Weiyao (XIII); Liao Qingsong (XIV, XX); Zhang Xiangyu (XV); Luo Shijing (XVI); Fem (XVIII); Chen Junlin [Arvin Chen] (XIX). Sound: CMPC Technical Center (I, VI, XII, XVII); 3H Sound Studio (II-V, VII-X, XIII-XVI, XVIII-XX); Huang Songhua, Ye Yuese (XI).
Cast: I: Cai Mingxiu, Xie Qiwen (brothers); II: Li Hou Louyuan (mother); III: Lin Qingtai (himself); IV: Lai Ajie (Fang); V: Xie Xinying (bus driver); VI: Kou Jiarui (man), Liao Wenli (woman); VII: Li Lie (Liu Qi, woman); Ke Yizheng (salon owner), Ke Yulun (Liu Qi’s lover); VIII: Zhang Xunwei; IX: Zhang Fangyi (Andai, girl); X: Zeng Peiyu (singer), Wang Dingzhu (older woman), Chen Yuxun (TV floor-manager); XI: Zheng Shihua (Jiang, soldier), Wu Liyuan (young Chun); XII: Gao Yingxuan, Huang Jianwei, Liao Yiqiao, Zhang Jie; XIII: Zheng Jinshan (old man); XIV: Ji Luxia (old Ji Luxia), Jian Manshu (young Ji Luxia), Huang He (young man in park); XV: Gui Lunmei (Li, young woman); XVI: Gao Jie [Jack Kao] (Zhou Weide’s father), Lu Yijing (Zhou Weide’s mother), Dai Liren [Leon Dai] (Xiaopan’s uncle); XVII: Li Guanyi (boy), Qiu Qinquan (girl), Wu Zhongtian; XVIII: Lin Chenxi (customer), Wang Pinhan (sales clerk); XIX: Zhang Xiaoquan [Joseph Chang] (man), Zhang Shaohan (woman); XX: Shu Qi (young woman), Mei Fang (her great-grandmother).
Premiere: Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival (opening film), 4 Nov 2011.
Release: Taiwan, 16 Dec 2011.
(Review originally published on Film Business Asia, 20 Jan 2012.)