Taipei Story

Taipei Story ★★★★½

Taipei Story is a masterpiece of inner feeling. It reflects the calm of life, through still shots of windows and beds and phones, and yet it reveals a constant inner chaos. Taipei was the centre of a new middle class in a rapidly developed economy. Edward Yang made cinema that probed the hypocrises and weaknesses of middle class living. In Taipei Story people feel lost in an urban maze, using sunglasses to hide their soul. A moving pepsi can becomes a symbol for a shallow modern society. The lead couple is torn between clinging to the past or fighting to move forward. They feel special, but these are the same motions that every generation experiences. Yang was the master at exploring human cycles and Taipei Story is another good example of this. A man starts to reflect his father, enacting the repitition that binds all society down. We are the most unoriginal of beasts, always an image of what came before. Such is the natural way of things.

Shots in Taipei Story rarely reveal all. Things are so often just out of frame. The camerawork is static and calm, usually with little happening. Yet it starts to move more and more, especially after the first act. The film starts as a story about a couple with small problems and then becomes something more tough and harsh. We see that not every life can turn good. Not every man can reach the ascendant middle class, who are a group of people with access to money, jobs, and the possibility of immigration. The film presents a man, an implied equal of our male lead, who did not make it out of poverty. He is a taxi driver who works without sleep. Taipei Story is Taiwanese neorealism, drawing on class divides and social forces.

Our lead couple are drawn in two directions. He lives with his shallow thoughts and no desire to change. She wants something deeper and more meaningful, more exciting and fulfilling. In the end he feels emasculated by this new, modern, intellectual, attractive world. His simple, physical world cannot compete. He recounts a story of a Taiwanese immigrant in America who killed a black person and got away with it. This monologue is centred on the freedom of self-defence and is presented neutrally. The characters exist in both shock and awe of the world they don't inhabit. They are confined by what they know, and actions that occur abroad have no value for them. Taipei Story is cinema of those who cocoon themselves in their reality, even when they look for more. True escapism is more than changing friends, especially when everyone you know is already part of your city.

Taipei Story is about lonely people in a busy world. They question if they've ever truly loved somebody and find themselves unable to determine what they value. Like most of us, they are useless, becoming so inactive within their own existence. In the end, despite all pain, they do what all generations do and settle with what they have. Their relationship has broken, but marriage is now an option. Settle with what you have. A man hears the sounds of a baseball match as he dies bleeding, while smoking a cigarette and laughing to himself. Settle with what you have and die happy. American companies are moving to Taiwan, there's no reason to emigrate. Work hard and settle with what you have. We all live a life of compromise, but that doesn't make it worthless.

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