So what constitutes a film festival? The description is contracted to the minimum with the forthcoming Taiwan Film Festival, a two film event at the Dendy Opera Quays in Sydney on 27 and 28 October. Here at least the quality rating is very high indeed. It is screening Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Cannes prize-winner The Assassin, already shown at the Sydney Film Festival and thus needing no introduction and, out of the blue and without any public attention of any kind, the Australian premiere of Thanatos, Drunk. This film recently had its North American premiere at Vancouver and the program note described it thus. If you didn’t already know: Thanatos is the Greek demon of death. Given that, the title of this indie gem promises something wild, and something wild is precisely what you get.
Rat and Shanghe are
brothers, the former straight, the latter a nightclub-loving gay man. This is a
close-up look at their misadventures as they trek through the back alleys and
shady clubs of Taipei. The cast of characters also includes a gigolo, a mute
prostitute and one seriously aggravated mobster. We meet this charming bunch in
a narrative in which the past and present intermingle, play off each other and
keep us on our toes. The storytelling is far from alienating, though; if
anything, it only heightens the intensity.
Director Chang Tso-Chi knows
a thing or two about throwing the audience for a loop, so prepare yourself for
surprises, including some unexpected moments of quiet and poignancy. The indie
film scene in Taiwan is bursting with talent right now, and this is one of the
most inventive features to emerge from it. Chang gives us a bittersweet
portrait of brotherhood, a wide-angle view of contemporary Taiwan and a
whimsical tale of survival in the mean city.
“Fierce and emotionally
poignant… [It] feels like a lethal projectile striking at the core of
humanity.”—Ho Yi, Taipei Times