From Taipei Story.
When I hopped over to BAM recently to see Edward Yang’s 1985 Taipei Story, I didn’t realize that I was about to encounter one of the most beautiful movies I’ve seen this year. Taipei Story is a stunning and fluid masterpiece about a couple, Chin (Tsai Chin) and Lung (Hou Hsiao-hsien), slowly drifting apart in an increasingly modern Taiwan. They make vague plans to move to America, but they fall through—neither one of them can seem to stop giving money to their struggling friends and family. The movie is sewn through with glorious slow images: of Taiwan’s new, monotonous high-rises (“I can’t tell anymore which ones I designed and which I didn’t,” says Chin’s architect lover); clogged highways; active night markets and cozy karaoke bars. Everything is bent in a glacially paced Weltschmerz. The biggest bummer (spoiler, sorry): when Lung dies, stabbed at the end by a young admirer of Chin’s. It happens so casually, in a muffled street scuffle, that it just seems like another quiet moment in this drifting, sad story. But Yang has flipped the tragedy switch: after his attacker flees, Lung starts to walk away, then stops, pulls back his jacket, and looks at a dripping, red orb on his white dress shirt. He limps down the empty, tree-lined parkway, hoping for a cab. It never comes. —Caitlin Love
I watched A Perfect Couple (1979) from start to finish before I realized it was a Robert Altman movie. I should’ve known: it’s a bonkers rom-com including an assault with a fireplace poker, a very horny veterinarian, and a tender moment in the ER, with the doctor interrupting to say, “I don’t think you two should be kissing while I’m suturing.” Paul Dooley and Marta Heflin play star-crossed lovers with troubles at home. He, well into his forties, still lives in the baroque family mansion, where his tyrannical Greek father presides over creaky, oppressive family dinners. She’s a backup singer in Keepin’ Em Off the Streets, a Delaney and Bonnie–ish rock revue whose asshole bandleader insists on grueling, interminable rehearsals, after which the band repairs to the hip loft where they cohabit in promiscuous, cultlike harmony. Altman’s arch, cynical side is here in abundance—he makes love seem like an apocalypse, the sort of thing you’d undertake only if the drugs stopped being fun. But almost in spite of himself, he ends up with a winsome story about trapped people looking for life’s fire exits. (He also sneaks in one of the earliest examples of a happy gay couple in all of cinema.) The sets, designed by regular Altman collaborator Leon Ericksen, are at once airy and labyrinthine, giving the camera plenty of holes to plumb and baubles to dwell on. And the script is quietly lacerating: when Dooley advertises himself for a video-dating service, he stammers, “I’m interested in having a relationship that’s, uh … well I don’t like to say meaningful, because everybody says meaningful.” —Dan Piepenbring Read More