Friday, December 19, 2008

Hai jiao qi hao (Cape No. 7)

I’m trying to watch as much as I can from the very long list of Foreign Film submissions to the Oscars, so it’s not strange that I watched Taiwan’s submission especially when I’m truly keen to films from China, Japan and Taiwan. This is a very strange movie because as a whole it does not look or feel like a movie that will be submitted to the Academy Awards as in my opinion the story and the movie are too mainstream and only has one truly outstanding characteristic: splendid cinematography with a few puzzling arty great composed scenes.

As a matter of fact what really kept me watching is that once in a while there were amazing takes, mostly of nature and all related to water. One sample is the gorgeous opening scene that is breathtaking and perhaps lifts expectations to what will follow has to be art cinema, which is not at all. So, as I mentioned I kept watching, thinking that I definitively didn’t understand why a country could submit such film for the Oscars; but near the end when the movie reaches the climax I couldn’t believe myself as I was crying like a baby as the story really touched all my emotions! Unbelievable!

So actually is not a surprise to find that this movie was a huge commercial success in Taiwan with a box-office only behind Titanic, as this movie is a crowd pleaser with something for everyone, even when most of the 129 minutes the films runs looks and feels like a teenager comedy/romance American B-Movie and I say this just to make a comparison that most of you readers can understand.

The movie tells about two romances, both are interracial between a Taiwanese and a Japanese, one is set in the present and another when the Japanese occupied Taiwan. The story set in the past is beautiful with some letters that read like incredibly beautiful poems and a quite unexpected end. Unfortunately this story is told intertwined with the present story which in cinematic terms present two very different styles with the story told in the present loosing too much to the beauty of the story told in the past.

The story set in the present is about a Hengchun-native rock band singer who could not find success in Taipei and thanks to a series of incidents is forced to form a rock band with the most unlikely all age characters, as the band will be curtain-raiser to the concert of real-life Japanese pop star Kousuke Atari at a beach resort. The story is supposed to be a comedy with some drama and romance and I did laugh at some hilarious moments; but definitively I find that’s not easy to watch, as honestly the plot, the acting and the flow is not good. But, the story climax was very touching and as I mentioned, could provoke an explosion of emotions.

No matter how moving the finale is, the movie as a whole definitively is not Oscar material, even when has won 12 awards and has had many nominations, including winning 6 Golden Horse Awards and winning the Taipei Grand Award for Best Cinematography and Best Film at the 2008 Taipei fest.

I cannot really recommend this movie as in general has below average production values, but if you feel like watching the second top grossing film in Taiwan’s cinematic history, then you can give the movie a try and if you sustain watching until the movie climax perhaps could move you as much as it did to me.

One last comment, thanks to this movie I think that I understand better movies like Zero Chou’s Spider Lillies and Drifting Flowers, as seems that there’s a new style trend developing among younger Taiwanese filmmakers; Cape No. 7 has some moments that totally recall Zero Chou’s films and those moments suggest the use of this new developing style trend.


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