(director/writer: Edward Yang; screenwriter: Hsiao Yeh; cinematographer: Tsan Chang; editor: Ching-Song Liao; music: Xiaoliang Weng; cast: Cora Miao (Zhou Yufang, novelist), Bao-ming Gu (The cop), Wang An (Eurasian girl), Shi-Jye Jin (Zhou’s Lover), Lichun Lee (Li Lizhong), Shaojun Ma(Young photographer; Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Deng Fei Lin; Golden Harvest Company; 1986-Taiwan-in Mandarin with English subtitles)

A dreamlike profound film of parallel stories, though bleak, confusing and enigmatic, is masterfully blended together.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A dreamlike profound film of parallel stories, though bleak, confusing and enigmatic, is masterfully blended together. Taiwanese New Wave director Edward Yang (“That Day, On The Beach”/”A Brighter Summer Day”/”Yi Yi”), who died at age 59 in 2007, co-writes with Hsiao Yehand and helms this intense atmospheric rarely seen in America film that has something unpleasant to say about life in the big city of Taipei, about learning life lessons the hard way through bitter experience, that it’s possible to act as a terrorizer without realizing it, and that it’s too often that our real lives don’t go as well as the fiction we read and we find that difficult to accept. It ends on a note of ambiguity, leaving us to figure if these tragedies really happened, were a dream or a novel. For Yang, it hardly matters. For him, the characters involved have lost their balance and way in the world, even if they succeed as lovers or careerists. In any case, there are multiple endings to choose from.

It opens with a shooting in the street and a man lying in the middle of the street, with the cops raiding the dead man’s flat and arresting the gang’s shooter. Meanwhile a wounded in the leg juvenile delinquent Eurasian girl (Wang An) flees the scene but is caught on film by an obsessive amateur young man photographer (Shaojun Ma), whose parents are wealthy. At home the teenage girl’s harried working-class mom beats her and locks her in the house, where she occupies her time making threatening prank calls which involve characters in the shoot-out.

The lives of several of those involved in the shoot-out gets flushed out in the ensuing parallel stories. The complicated story expands on the shoot-out without ever telling us any more info on the raid. One story follows the sudden heart attack death of a lab research scientist’s boss and the oily Li Lizhong (Lichun Lee) frames his rival colleague/friend in order to succeed to the clinic’s open post of director. Li’s writer blocked suffering novelist wife Zhou (Cora Miao) has difficulty telling her inattentive possessive hubby she wants to end the marriage because she feels suffocated and in the meantime has gone back to work for her former boss and lover, the newspaper editor (Shi-Jye Jin), and has resumed the affair. The novelist becomes confused, as she finds her life begins to resemble her prize-winning book “Notes on a Marriage,” and fears her hubby might become violent over the rejection.

The tone and structure of the film, in the way it studies society’s ennui, resembles most an Antonioni film (the photographer is right out of Blowup). It shows a country that has lost its spiritual balance and is reeling though going through its greatest economic boom. Yang uses the bustling Taipei urban landscape as the looming terror that confronts its citizens. It’s a modern-day look at how the city denizens from all walks of life fool themselves into believing their increasing material comforts have made their life that much better, even though every main character is in mental pain. A most unusual and interesting pic, with no sympathetic protagonist to identify with and a disjointed narrative to try and figure out.