Academic journal article CineAction

Wolves Cry under the Moon

Academic journal article CineAction

Wolves Cry under the Moon

Article excerpt

by Robin Wood

The cinema of Taiwan continues to astonish: so small a country, so many remarkable directors, so many densely worked, intelligent, complex, intellectually and aesthetically sophisticated films, not one of which, aside from Ang Lee's Eat Drink Man Woman, has been honoured with North American distribution. When shall we be allowed to see, outside the festival circuit and a very few of the more adventurous repertory theatres, the works of Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Edward Yang and Tsai Ming-Liung? Tsai's Vive L'Amour is now available on video, for anyone who can afford $90 U.S. Otherwise, a total blank, and for most of us some of the finest work being currently produced anywhere in the world is beyond our reach. Should we add Ho Ping to the above list? He is, at the lowest estimate, promising. I have not seen his first film, 18, but Wolves Cry Under the Moon strikes me as among the most interesting, and certainly among the most overlooked, films in the 1997 Toronto festival. I attended both of the film's screenings, each time with a very small audience; the film received very little advance publicity, and few people I spoke to seemed to be aware of it. The film is audacious and striking; I am less certain whether it is entirely successful, but this uncertainty may be a necessary consequence of its stance. During its latter half the spectator experiences a rising frustration. The film is built upon the journeys of its numerous characters, to whom many strange and unpredictable things happen, yet one gains the paradoxical impression that it is essentially static: all these people, all these events, but nothing really changes, no one develops, no one learns: everything happens, yet nothing happens. I put this to the director during the question session following the second screening, and he agreed: Taiwan is a small island, the only possible movement is circular, getting nowhere, and this becomes a metaphor for the country's current sociopolitical situation. The main body of the film covers a single night; there is a daytime prologue and epilogue. The prologue establishes the film's dual starting-point: (a) the main highway is closed off, and travellers are advised to use the smaller side roads; (b) a young man assassinates the chief of police. …

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