Qing mei zhu ma (original title) / 1985 / drama / 1h 50min / directed by Edward Yang / country: Taiwan / language: Min Nan | Mandarin | Hokkien / subtitles: English
“Edward Yang’s 1985 film has two different names. Its Chinese title is Qing mei zhu ma, an idiomatic phrase coined by poet Li Bai that means “Green plum, bamboo horse”, an oblique reference to a couple whose love has emerged out of childhood games and trivia. It is applied by Yang ironically, for the film’s two main characters, Lung (Taiwanese New Wave filmmaker Hou Hsiao-hsien) and Chin (Tsai Chin), are long-time sweethearts who are excruciatingly distant from each other. Its English one is Taipei Story, an apparent reference to Yasujirō Ozu’s Tōkyō Monogatari (Tokyo Story, 1953), a film that, like Taipei Story, explores a nation and city’s marked departure from traditional values. The film’s separate titles illuminate two distinct yet overlapping truths about Yang’s masterful Taiwanese New Wave film.”
–Nicholas Bugeja, Senses of Cinema
“The mood in Taipei Story is perfectly modulated from moment to moment, all the more impressive given that it’s only Yang’s sophomore film. The editing expertly captures the ebb and flow of urban life, tracing the characters through winding streets and neon-lit buildings, while exploring their emotional and psychological states through their varied interpersonal interactions. It’s a cliché to compare Yang’s films to a novel, perhaps, but he truly earns that description.”
–Jayson McNulty, Film Daze
“Yang was interested in filming modernity, like Michelangelo Antonioni a generation or two earlier. His movies pop with the industrial and commercial scenery of his adopted hometown of Taipei (like many of Taiwan’s notable directors, he wasn’t born on the island), and his camera and characters have a distinct way of regarding the unfurnished spaces of a room. Taipei Story, which was only his second film as a director, was an important step, both for Yang—who would next make The Terrorizers, his best early film—and the film movement that we now call the New Taiwanese Cinema or Taiwanese New Wave. It may not be the complete masterpiece that it has sometimes been hailed as—only a terrifically accomplished and affecting film that is one of many possible entry points into the work of a great filmmaker.
Co-written with Hou and Hou’s longtime writing partner, Chu Tien-Wen, Taipei Story is like so many Yang films in that it doesn’t pinpoint the contradictions of modern living in characters so much as in what they navigate on a day-to-day basis: environments, spheres of couple-hood and family life.”
–Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, AV Club