The Feature Film Nominees of The 53rd Golden Horse Award Review

The the strong power of Chinese Cinema, Hong Kong films’ bouncing back, the shift of Taiwanese film industry, and the significance of Taiwanese New Wave were all present at the 53rd Golden Horse Award

By Kun-Yu Lai

Golden Horse Awards is the biggest and most iconic award in the Chinese-speaking world. Even though the 53rd was held in November, I still want to write an article about it due to its significance. At the ceremony, I saw the strong power of Chinese Cinema, Hong Kong films’ bouncing back, the shift of Taiwanese film industry, and the significance of Taiwanese New Wave.

The winner of Best Picture: "The Summer Is Gone" is about the way a young boy lives his naive childhood in a simple village, and it is obviously affected by Taiwanese New Wave. As the boy grows up, his village also slowly shifts and decays. This is just like another version of Hou Hsiao-hsien’s "A Time To Live, A Time To Die".

Just like the film’s director ZHANG Dalei claims that he is influenced by Taiwanese New Wave a lot, "The Summer Is Gone" is filled with tributes to the masters of that time. The boy’s movement has the soul from Edward Yang’s "Yi-Yi", and the same applies to the way the director edits and uses long takes. In other words, "The Summer Is Gone" is a tribute and a renewal of Taiwanese New Wave.


Another nominee also influenced by the Taiwanese New Wave is "The Road to Mandalay", directed by Midi Z. Regarded as the successor of Hou Hsiao-Hisen, Midi Z has shown his amazing ability on using long takes in his works. 

The story is about a pair of young immigrants, who leave Burma to go to Thailand, fall in love and start to realize the differences between them. Based on a true story of Midi Z’s sister and her friends, the film shows the true hardships of immigrant labors and their small dreams, which is a rare topic for the whole Chinese-speaking film industry. Like his last film Ice Poison, this movie reveals the real circumstances of south east Asia, but the its structure is very easy to relate to Edward Yang’s "A Brighter Summer Day".


In contrary to "The Road to Mandalay", "Godspeed" from Taiwan shows the changes in Taiwanese local movies. "Godspeed" is a road movie that combines gangster films’ plot, black humor and a warmth that is deep inside people’s heart. With the director Chung Mong-Hong presenting his own unique, violent style and amazing storytelling ability, "Godspeed" opens a new field to Taiwanese movies, which had a downfall in both quality and quantity this year.

The movie is about a delivery guy who works for the mafia. Coincidentally, he encounters a taxi driver from Hong-Kong, and they have to finish their unlucky journey in order to survive. As the story develops, the more absurd twists they encounter, which make this film filled with magical realism. Furthermore, Chung Mong-Hong’s trademark camera movements turn the ruins of Taiwanese villages into overwhelming, extraordinary, but also bizarre images that even Taiwanese like me also feel amazed.


After years of depression in Hong-Kong film industry, "Trivisa" is like an announcement of a new era in Hong-Kong movies, demonstrating the return of Hong-Kong’s gangster film. With great parallel plot lines and perfect editing, this film renovates our imagination about the certain genre, like "Internal Affairs" did in 2002.

The background story is the Hong Kong reunification in 1997, which made society very unstable. In that crazy and changing era, three main characters, who are also known as the three Kings of Thieves, encounter their own decisions of lives separately, making them consider the possibility of working together for the very first time. The parallel storyline shows each character’s struggle and experience with very delicate structure that makes every twist and tension in the film perfectly strike into people’s heart. 

Legendary Johnnie To was the producer, and he allowed three young directors to write their screenplay individually, and then he put them together as an extremely complex masterpiece. These three directors: LOONG Man Hong, Thomas NG and MAK Tin-shu, successfully transfer the traditional excitement of Hong-Kong film to their new souls of cinema.


"I Am Not Madame Bovary" is a bold work directed by Xiaogang Feng that amazes audience in every aspect. The story is about a female peasant who challenges Chinese law system in order to win her reputation back. However, the more she tries to win her lawsuit, the more absurd reality becomes. Even the central government in Beijing starts to have concerns about this case. As a Xiaogang Feng’s comedy film, the dialogue is very clever, fun and 100% Beijing style.

What makes "I Am Not Madame Bovary" outstanding, though  is the framing. Xiaogang Feng replaces normal film framing by putting a circle in the center of the screen. 


This rounded composition is very similar to Chinese traditional window painting, which makes the audience feel like peeping on other’s life or seeing an eastern old fable story, which is directly connected to its Chinese title. What’s more, the rounded composition is a metaphor for Chinese bureaucracy. As the story develops, the framing also changes to square and normal ratio, in order to respond to how the lawsuit is handled.

Another interesting aspect of "I Am Not Madame Bovary" is the way it passes Chinese government’s censorship. Criticizing Chinese government is not allowed in China, but this film uses smart dialogues to discuss the issue, (making it become more like a lovely remind to the government). Although the power of the film is obviously weakened by doing this, it successfully walked by the gray area of censorship and got screened. In other words, the structure and the content is an important lesson for those directors who try to talk about social issues in China on the way to avoid being banned.


Annual Golden Horse Award reveals each land’s filmmaking status and quality. Through this year's nominees, we can see how the old classic films like "A Brighter Summer Day", which also became the main visual theme of the ceremony this year, still play an important role. On top of that, new generation filmmakers open a new genre and era to this world, developing new possibilities.

I am really excited for the future of these nominees.

COMMENTS

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Asian Film Vault: The Feature Film Nominees of The 53rd Golden Horse Award Review
The Feature Film Nominees of The 53rd Golden Horse Award Review
The the strong power of Chinese Cinema, Hong Kong films’ bouncing back, the shift of Taiwanese film industry, and the significance of Taiwanese New Wave were all present at the 53rd Golden Horse Award
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