- 1h 44min
Passionate about life and art, young researcher Ching is in love with museum historian Tung-Heng, but he is absorbed in his work. Then Tao arrives in Taiwan to view an item of historical cal... Read allPassionate about life and art, young researcher Ching is in love with museum historian Tung-Heng, but he is absorbed in his work. Then Tao arrives in Taiwan to view an item of historical calligraphy, and they realize why he pursues calligraphy.Passionate about life and art, young researcher Ching is in love with museum historian Tung-Heng, but he is absorbed in his work. Then Tao arrives in Taiwan to view an item of historical calligraphy, and they realize why he pursues calligraphy.
Enter Cheng Wen-Tang – "Summer's Tail" (2007), "The Passage" (2004), "Blue Cha Cha" (2005) – a Taiwanese director that no one talks about. Even in "art-house" circles I never hear the man's named mentioned, nor his films. Ironic it seems, because his films are far more mature, thoughtful, and entertaining than anything I've yet seen from Tsai. And yes, Cheng gives us a similar kind of artsy minimalism, but what sets him apart is that he actually succeeds in making simplistic everyday events entertaining with intelligence, subtlety, character development, and engaging character interaction. At no point do his films seem dry or uninvolving. Even more importantly, he never engages in the same kind of patronizing, insulting, self-aggrandizing, masturbatory filmmaking that Tsai loves to bathe himself in.
"The Passage" is quite possibly Cheng's best film – though I still have to see "Tears" (2009) – and is about three characters: (1) a girl (Kwai Lunmei) who works at an art museum and dreams of touring a restricted vault of rare, old artworks; (2) a melancholy man (Leon Dai) who writes articles for the same museum and tries to cope with the loss of a love interest; and (3) a Japanese tourist (Yukihiko Kageyama) who desperately wants to find and see a specific artwork. Obviously, the theme of art and artistic expression runs rampant throughout, and two of the main characters have a very personal, passionate love for it – the reasons for which are developed significantly. What I personally found very interesting is how art acts as a therapeutic device that instills a sense of tranquility within the characters' lives.
The scriptwriting in this film provides yet another example of why I don't watch American movies anymore. The relationships between the characters and side-characters, their motivations, and their histories are not simply thrown at the viewer with verbal exposition. There is plenty of subtlety and indirect communication to keep the braincells working. For example, at the very beginning the lead actress exchanges a few email messages with an unknown third party. At first it's difficult to tell who the sender is or who they are talking about. Later on there's a brief conversation between the lead actress and another character and BAM, the relationships all fall into place for attentive viewers who can connect the two scenes together. This is kind of cerebral exercise that makes "everyday living" films more interesting than they probably should be.
As in Cheng's other films, the scoring and cinematography are exquisite. What results is a very soft, pleasant mood that is sheer joy to experience. In addition, Cheng uses a few brief, charming bits of animation for the storytelling segments. Acting is top notch from everyone involving, and that includes Kwai Lunmei – who is rapidly ascending my list of favorite actresses. Practically every one of her performances is great, and this is no exception. In the "All About Women" (2008) user comments someone claimed that Kwai simply rode the coattails of Jay Chou in "Secret" (2007) to gain some undeserving attention as an actress. I can only assume that this reviewer never bothered to watch any of her previous films, especially this one. Her talent is undeniable.
More viewers need to give director Cheng Wen-Tang a chance. His filmography is tiny, so there are no excuses to keep skipping him over. His films are awesome, and should not be missed!
- Aug 3, 2010