Taiwanese new-waver Chang Tso-chi’s third feature combines realism with mysticism to baffling effect. A genuine oddity, pic has distinctive qualities and is a possible traveler on the summer fest circuit but doesn’t look likely to start a serious critical movement for this helmer.
Story unfolds in a fishing town not far from Taipei where a young girl, Kang-li, comes home for summer vacation. She’s greatly needed because several members of her family are blind, including her retarded younger brother and her father, who has recently been involved in a car accident in which Kang-li’s mother was killed. Father now works as a masseur, and Kang-li helps guide him.
One day she meets a new arrival to the district, mainlander Ah Ping, from a family of gangsters. He seems to like the innocent girl, and they begin to spend time together. Then tragedy strikes not once but twice, and Kang-li is devastated by her reversal of fortune. The film ends with a strangely matter-of-fact sequence in which the two characters who have died simply turn up for a meal at the family apartment and are warmly welcomed.
This fantastic finale is on a completely different level from the downbeat realism of the rest of the film and its generally naturalistic thesping. It certainly makes for an unusual resolution to an otherwise standard study of working-class types and gangster substrata.
Pic is composed mainly of busy dialogue scenes in which several characters talk loudly at the same time, punctuated by attractively shot harborscapes and fades to black. Chang builds up a seductive rhythm but isn’t able to straddle the leap taken in the final reel.