Monday, May 4, 2009

The ideal home town - Cape No. 7

A miracle of a Taiwanese film, Cape No. 7 is a romantic comedy that revitalize local film making industry and brought immense income to the southern parts of the island through tourism. One of the praises for the film is its accurate portrayal of life in southern Taiwan, with a multitude of Chinese dialects and Japanese dialogue interweaving in between, the film does give a glimpse of the island's colorful history.

What capture the audience's hearts, aside from the accurate portrayal, is a close knit community in a little town where everybody knows and cares about everybody else. And although this is a close knitted group, they are by no means exclusive, newcomers are welcomed with opened arms after a few (comical) frustrating episodes.

In a fast food world where everyday life is hectic, the little town with its leisurely pace could drive people crazy. However, like Tomoko (Tanaka Chie), as soon as you get used to it, you'd find that you are surrounded by family.

The movie starts with a scene in 1945 when the Japanese occupation forces left the island, bringing with them the soldiers as well as common people such as teachers. One of the teachers have written a series of letters to the girl he loves but left behind. The camera then pans to the present time where the audience meets the other protagonists, Aga, an angry band vocalist turned postman and Tomoko, a disillusioned model turned translator.

Aga and Tomoko are representations of young people with lost dreams, while Aga displays his anger in a nihilistic way (mucking up with his job, opening the recipient's letters etc), Tomoko's pent up frustrations are threatening to explode (and eventually did, in the middle of the film in an extremely touching, but comical way). This warm little town proves to be a perfect sanctuary for them, gave them a common goal to achieve, a chance to connect with the other town's folk and some rest before they have to embark upon another adventure.

The growing romance between Aga and Tomoko forms one of the main branches, the story of all the others in the make shift warm-up band serves not as a foil, but the different facets of positive human relationships. The other branch, focused on the seven letters written by the Japanese teacher illustrates the guilt and hardship that tore people apart, however, with effort, people could mend the gap and overcome wounds, as shown by Tomoko's search for the recipient of the letters and Aga's mad dash at delivering them.

With a closing shot of the now old lady reading letters written by her first love under a sky of fireworks after decades turbulent change, what else could be more poignant and touching?

The search, or going back to a home town have become recurring themes in East Asian popular culture in the last two decades, with a sharp rise since the last financial crisis. During these hard times, people are longing for a place that offers warmth and stability, somewhere they could recuperate in peace and think about their next move or explore their strengths, or simply, some place to hide.

The town in Cape No.7 provides exactly this, together with fun, laughs, and the eternally true principal of team building: nothing pulls people together closer than providing them with an unlimited amount of strong spirits.

With trends of globalization sweeping through, your home town might not be in your nation, it could be somwhere else entirely (e.g. Taiwan). But before you embark on your journey, come get the film from Play-Asia.

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