Review: ‘Every Odd Numbered Day’

(Mandarin, Hokkien Chinese dialogue)

(Mandarin, Hokkien Chinese dialogue)

Microscopic in its concerns but original in approach, “Every Odd Numbered Day” is a highly specialized item that’s for hard-core Sinophiles only. Mixing docu interviews and dramatized scenes, young Taiwanese helmer Dong Chen-liang fills in a forgotten corner of 20th-century Chinese history with this ironic love letter to his place of birth, the political shuttlecock of the island of Kinmen.

Under KMT rule since the defeat of Japan in 1945, the tiny island, one of a group just off China, became a de facto “front line” when the Mainland went Communist in ’49 and the KMT fled to Taiwan. From 1953 to 1973, the Communists shelled it on odd-numbered days (hence pic’s title), finally halting the psychological game-playing following the U.S.’ reestablishment of official ties with Peking.

Through the fictional (though clearly part-autobiographical) character of a young man, Ah-ying, remembering his childhood during those years, Dong weaves a tapestry of interviews with islanders, staged scenes of everyday life, and often sarcastic captions detailing historical events. Dominant impression is of an island people with their own sense of identity, caught up in a phony propaganda war (on both sides) through an accident of geography. For them, the bright lights of Taipei are “far away.”

At 70-odd minutes the subject matter isn’t overstretched, though it’s still of specialist appeal. Dong makes the most of his nonbudget, staging re-creations with economy and point. Community feel of the work is grandstanded in the opening titles which list some 190 names of those involved in the production, along with a title announcing “a film for the masses.”

Every Odd Numbered Day

(TAIWAN)

Production

A Firefly Image Co. production. (International sales: Firefly, Taipei.) Directed by Dong Chen-liang. Screenplay, Dong, Chou Mei-ling, from an original story by Huang Ko-chuen.

Crew

Camera (color, 16mm), Chen Yung-shou, Peng Chia-ju, Dong; editors, Yu Chien-hou, Dong; art direction, Hsu Hung-wen. Reviewed on vidcassette, London, Aug. 14, 1995. (In Vancouver Film Festival.) Running time: 76 MIN.

With

Ah-ying ... Li Ming-ling Auntie ... Chen Jui-tsai Ah-ming ... Hsu Cheng-hsiang Grandfather ... Tsai Liang-shan
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