Urban romance a winner

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 August, 2010, 12:00am

American-born, Taipei-based director Arvin Chen's feature debut Au Revoir Taipei delivers a unique take on Taipei's urban culture and provides an interesting contrast to a summer of superhero, animation and 3D films.

Kai (Jack Yao) longs to join his girlfriend in the romance capital of the world, Paris. Each day he goes to a bookstore to learn French. Susie (Amber Kuo) works at the bookstore and has become smitten with Kai. One day they are brought together after an 'arrangement' made by Kai with shady real estate dealer Brother Bao (Frankie Gao).

Many subplots are laid out, none of which is completely developed until the end. The threads are banded together by characters with varying motives, but it's done in a way that keeps the story progressing nicely without losing much clarity.

The establishment of Kai and other characters seems to take longer than needed, and the actors are anti-dramatic. But this is what makes the film unique and subtle.

Convenience store clerk Gao (Lawrence Ko) embodies the spirit of the film. His movements are slow and lethargic, but he's got character. You laugh at his awkward submissiveness, but it is likeable, just like the film.

Everything about the film seems 'native', which adds to its charm - it's a Taiwanese perspective of Taiwan. Only after reading Chen's biography do you realise he's essentially 'foreign'.