"A Cha-Cha for the Fugitive" is like watching a whirling dervish for 80 minutes while having your head banged with a tambourine. This often arresting, sometimes inspired first feature by Wang Tsai-sheng should find a welcome in venues devoted to semi-experimental fare, while the rest of the world waits for his next, more coherent pic.

“A Cha-Cha for the Fugitive” is like watching a whirling dervish for 80 minutes while having your head banged with a tambourine. This often arresting, sometimes inspired and always infuriating first feature by Taiwanese commercials maker Wang Tsai-sheng should find a welcome in venues devoted to semi-experimental fare, while the rest of the world waits patiently for his next, more coherent pic.

Plot, such as it is, hinges on a narcissistic young dancer (Julien Chen) in urban Taipei who silently moons around in shades when not practicing in front of a mirror while his g.f. (Lu Hsin-yu) babbles on with a never-ending stream of questions. If that isn’t enough, his mother is always leaving rapid-fire messages on his answering machine.

Accidentally videotaping the shooting of a politician at a fireworks festival in Yenshui, he becomes targeted by the killer, who hunts him down at a post-punk concert and gives chase through the streets at night. It seems the young dancer’s dreams of a trip to New York are at an end.

Between all the alienation and nihilistic energy on show, Wang’s collage style of filmmaking often digresses to include everything from close-ups of ants to pork meat being sliced. The mix sounds pretentious — and often is — but the jagged, consistently striking imagery often catches the malaise and loss of direction among a certain section of Taipei youth (and evolving Taiwanese society in general) better than many dourer, introspective pics from the island. Think Derek Jarman’s “The Last of England” crossed with Jean-Luc Godard’s middle period and you’re halfway there.

Wang’s use of color, from realistic hues to ghastly luminescent tones, is inventive, as is the music track, veering from crashing rock to solo cello. Film was shot in 1995 and went through three edits before reaching its present release version.

A Cha-Cha For the Fugitive

Taiwanese

Production

A Fountain Films Co. production, in association with Key Point Prods., Film Prods. (International sales: Fountain Films, Taipei.) Produced by Yang Pao-fei, Wang Tsai-sheng. Executive producer, Yang. Directed by Wang Tsai-sheng. Screenplay, Wang, Tseng Shu-mei.

Crew

Camera (color), Wang; editor, Christine Huang; music, Tseng Seu-ming; art direction, Wang; sound (uncredited stereo), Jim Shum, Tu Tu-chih. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Forum), Feb. 18, 1997. Running time: 82 MIN.

With

X - Julien Chen His Girlfriend - Lu Hsin-yu Assassin - Chen Chieh-yi Singer - Liu Shen-hsin Mother's Voice - Li Ang
With: Ho Tsung-hsien, Cheng Chi-chieh, Liu Pei-li, Chu Chao-tung, Ko Jen-chien, The Chao, Norman Feng. (Mandarin and Hokkien dialogue)
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