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"Taipei Story" 1985, Hou Hsiao-hsien


In 1985, Hou Hsiao-hsien starred, directed and created his second full-length film, “Taipei Story”. During this time, film directors were experimenting with new themes, specifically stories about how people struggle in everyday life. Additionally, this story was told at a very slow pace, which allowed the viewers to determine for themselves to emphasize the main character with their discomfort. Additionally, Taiwan’s economical society was transitioning rapidly from agriculture to living in the city, where often younger people had a difficult time living their everyday lives.


In Urban Taiwan, two young people, Tsai Chin and Lung (Hou Hsiao-hsien) were lost with themselves and were jobless. Chin was completely unsure what she wanted to do, and Lung had a thought about moving to the United States to work with his brother-in-law. Throughout the film, Lung continued to run into issues, and he lost and gave his valuables until he was not able to go into business with his brother. The main setting took place in a dreary, run down and hostile environment, which helped out the viewers to figure out that Chin and Lung were having a hard time in life, however they never explained why and how Lung was having a difficult time with life. On the other hand, Chin had a rough childhood, where her father abused her, and one of her friends stated that because of her past trauma that she should be or act like a man. By the end of the film, Lung and Chin continued to be living in misery, and Chin tried to help him out by asking to marry, but he was not sure and then he left to go home to think about it.


On his way home, Lung was involved in a fight with Chin’s ex-boyfriend where he eventually was stabbed. Following the fight, he sat on the side of the road by the garbage, and he allowed himself to slowly die in peace. Although there was no dialogue, or anything stated about Lung having suicidal thoughts. There were a few visual cues that viewers may think he is ready to die. The first visual clue was that Lung gave away most of his money, he lost his car and was not invested in any of his relationships. The second visual cue was that he did not seek out any help after he was stabbed, and all he did was smoked and relived his greatest moments.


Although the plot was awkward and slow, Hou Hsiao-hsien portrayed all of the scenes in the proper environment as dark, dreary and miserable. Within both of their families, their environments within their home were dark and dreary, which allowed viewers to closely pay attention and to keep their mood in a dark and depressing mood because this movie was meant to show people struggling. Additionally, Chin never found out that Lung died, and when the movie ended, Hsiao-hsien wanted viewers to figure out and speculate what Chin’s reaction would be as soon as she finds out. A Future film that Hou Hsiao-hsien had a similar theme to this film was “Dust in the Wind”, released one year later, where the two characters veered off in two different directions, where in the other film everybody knew what happened and, in this film, viewers did not know what happened. It was likely that distinction was done intentionally to allow viewers to draw a picture in their head about Chin’s reaction to Lung’s death.

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