Enigmatic, elliptical tale of Taipei strivers, pic will be catnip to hardcore fest followers and youthful Asiaphiles, but it may have others doing some noisy head scratching. Popster Jerry Hwrang, playing a frustrated musician married to the amnesia patient of the title, may help reduce the wonder in Canto circles, but this "Princess" won't travel far.

Enigmatic, elliptical tale of Taipei (and Type-A) strivers, “Princess in Wonder” will be catnip to hardcore fest followers and youthful Asiaphiles, but it may have others doing some noisy head scratching. Popster Jerry Hwrang, playing a frustrated musician married to the amnesia patient of the title, may help reduce the wonder in Canto circles, but this “Princess” won’t travel far.

Appealingly pixyish Gu Jung-Kao plays Chi-Chi, a woman who can’t remember a thing after a freak accident. How does she know it’s really her husband (Hwrang) and child in the apartment they seem to share? So she starts prowling the city, running into a young hustler Ah-Liang (Tuan Chun-Ho) who drives a cab by day and hawks pirated CDs at night. In addition, gang types seem to be after Ah-Liang’s already injured brother.

In a compelling subplot, another set of hoods is expecting a homeless fortuneteller (Hsia Jing-Ting) to make them some bombs, for unexplained reasons. The fortuneteller’s not very sharp about the future — or explosives — but his sidelines are unknown to the hard-nosed businesswoman (Lin Jah-Li) who takes him in, rather inexplicably, to help her run a tiny lottery stand — and maybe aid in some scams of her own.

These stories, only tangentially related at first, are eventually woven together in unexpected ways by experienced helmer Ho Ping, who got his film degree from New York state’s Syracuse U. Present, shot in slightly bleached colors, is sometimes interrupted by black-and-white flashbacks or more surreal intimations of things to come, meandering toward a vaguely defined, quietly grim ending.

Natch, the heroine gets another bonk on the head by the finish, and it’s clear she won’t simply go back to the life through which she had probably been sleepwalking.

Princess in Wonder

Taiwan

Production

A Heat Production/PTS Foundation production. (International sales: Heat Production, Taipei.) Produced by Chang Ming-Shin. Directed by Ho Ping. Screenplay, Ho, Tsai Yi-Jun, based on a story by Chen Ying-Shuh.

Crew

Camera (B&W, color), Fisher Yu; editor, Gu Hsiao-Yun; music, Jerry Hwarng; production designer, Alan Tseng; costume designer, Hong I-Hwei; sound (Dolby Digital), Tu Tuu-Chih; associate producer, Tseng Nen-Wei. Reviewed at Vancouver Film Festival (Dragons & Tigers), Oct. 6, 2003. Running time: 96 MIN.

With

Gu Jung-Kao, Lin Jah-Li, Hsia Jing-Ting, Duan Jun-hao, Jerry Hwrang, Tuan Chun-Ho.
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