These were not all recommendations. In many cases, these were just... I don't know what. Boredom, maybe, or honestly mistaking the title for something else that's actually worth the time. Or maybe I didn't mistake it and just thought the movie/drama poster looked cool. Some of these, though... IDEK.( A Good Day To Have An Affair, Bambino, Color Me Love, Hero, Protege, Sorry for the City, Sword in the Moon. )The Passage
[Taiwan, movie, 2004]
If there's anything on this list worth watching, this would be it. From AsianMediaWiki's description:
Petite but determined Yu-ching (Guey Lun-mei) is working as a museum research assistant when a Japanese man, Tao (Yukihiko Kageyama), inquires about a piece of Chinese calligraphy entitled "The Cold Food Observance." Yu-ching sees an opportunity here both for romance and for the healing of her friendship with an emotionally repressed pal, Dong Heng (Leon Dai), as the artwork is the center point of a book Dong is writing...
That's only what the movie is about on the surface, when in fact this movie is somewhere between calligraphy itself, and a tone poem. Almost bereft of any major instrumental score, the movie exists in a sort of timeless quiet, interspersed with stories of passages.
It's a story about exile, both willful and unwanted, self-created and externally imposed, and the wish to come home against the wish to flee. The story takes its time to unfold, and in between there are delightfully child-book illustrated-style animated segments that illustrate an old man's narration. The tie-in, at first, seems evident/solely due to the story revolving around the Taiwanese National Museum, I think it is, where Yu-ching works and Dong Heng does his research. But the old man's story is about the occupation and the war, when the Taiwanese feared bombing might hit the museum and endanger priceless cultural artifacts.
That narration tells of the search for a place to hide the artwork -- where to exile the artwork, if you will -- and the journey itself in carrying the artwork safely out of Taibei. In the dark, fearing the bombers looking for truck headlights to indicate a highway, the truck convoy took the journey into the mountains where the artwork could be stored safely in a cave deep within the mountains.
In a parallel sub-plot, the young visiting Japanese man's fascination/insistence on seeing "Cold Food Observance" isn't clear until near the end, when Yu-ching gives a short presentation about the calligraphy-piece's history. It's a poem written by an illustrious thinker, who spoke once too often a little too plainly in his poetry, and was banished by the Emperor (to what is now Taiwan, which is apparently how his calligraphy ended up in Taiwanese ownership). Regretting his exile and distance, the artist spoke sadly of what he had now, and what he had lost, and his desire to return home.
The characters seem simple, at first glance, but each has a story of passage: the Taiwanese author, Dong Heng, who has exiled himself within his work, but part of his work is receiving/recording the stories of the museum's exile. Yu-ching, whose greatest wish -- to see the original caves -- is retracing the path of that exile, in ways she can't trace or follow with Dong Heng. And then there's Dong Heng's father, lost in the mountains, never to return home. There's a broken jade ornament more precious to its elderly owner than any of the masterpieces in the museum boxes... and there's a young man whose grandfather -- possibly also exiled, himself -- spent a year restoring a masterpiece of calligraphy out of a sense that his own exile and longing was shared by that artist from a thousand years before, and that neither would ever see home again.
Much of the dialogue is like older chinese calligraphy, where the artist speaks of everyday things, things you wouldn't think are worth noting. The angle of the winter sun, the dust motes, the barking of the neighbor's dog, that the porridge is cold and the tea is a little too strong. The power in such poetry comes through in the way it evokes a moment in time.
By understanding what lies around the artist, you understand how the artist feels about what he's describing, and thence to understand what the artist wants you to feel, as well. It's a rather roundabout way, all showing and no telling, with the nuances being in how
you're shown -- that is, how the calligraphy itself appears on the page, in describing those simple things. A broad stroke, a playful swirl, even when the subject matter appears mundane. Understanding that is one path to understanding the elusive paths of The Passage