Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Doze Niu's successful Taiwan film Monga (艋舺) from 2010 features a naive high school age protagonist who enters into an urban gangster world of 1980s Taipei, taking the audience along with him into unfamiliar spaces. An excellent cast, including the director who plays his role superbly, Rhydian Vaughan from Winds of September (九降風, dir. Lin, 2008), and Ma Ju-Lung from Cape No. 7 (海角七號, dir. Wei, 2008), who is Gene Hackman-esque in his ability to lend credibility to any film he shares a role in, helps create a filmic space that feels real in spite of a fair amount of over-emotionalism and slo-mo melodrama. The film works best when the cinematography draws attention to itself and when the film's allegorical potential is realized. After all, Taiwan's transitions during the 1980s depicted here are analogous to other historical transitions in both Taiwan and China's respective histories.