Sumimasen, Love

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 April, 2009, 12:00am

Sumimasen, Love

Chie Tanaka, Wu Huai-chung

Director: Lin Yu-hsien

The southern Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung is the true star of this wistful look at cross-cultural love.

It isn't too surprising, as Sumimasen, Love was funded by the municipal government in an effort to make the town more visible as a tourist destination.

What distinguishes the third directorial effort of Lin Yu-hsien is that the final result doesn't feel like a travelogue, the various locales fitting naturally into the narrative and shot in a semi-documentary manner that admirably resists the temptation to overly prettify the sponsor's commodity.

The script has definite possibilities, the various vignettes connected via a banknote not unlike the coin in the Shanghai classic New Year's Gift (1937) or, more recently, Serendipity (2001). Alas, though the various sequences are steeped with local colour, the director seems incapable of infusing the drama with emotional depth or persuasiveness.

In contrast to the production's variety of locations, the couple at the movie's heart go nowhere. Fresh from her rise to stardom in last year's Cape No7, Chie Tanaka confirms the suspicion that despite cute looks and fluency in Mandarin, she isn't much of a thespian even when basically playing herself, as is the case here.

She portrays a model-turned-actress named Chie Tanaka, who suffers from burnout after unexpected success in motion pictures and escapes to southern Taiwan. There she encounters aspiring filmmaker Wu Huai-chung (above right with Tanaka) who plays himself and the two spend a day and night getting to know each other and Kaohsiung.

In the end, the viewer won't mind having gone along for the ride, but is apt to find the duo's adventures far less memorable than the neighbourhoods through which they traipse.