December 3, 2008

Taiwanese Movies Make A Comeback

After suffering years of stagnating domestic box-office figures, Taiwanese movies made a spectacular comeback in 2008 with Cape No. 7 (海角七號), a small budget indie flick that has become the all-time second highest grossing movie in Taiwan ever (second only to the Titanic). Up till today, Cape has earned US$14 million in Taiwan and topped the box office charts in Hong Kong on its opening weekend.

Set in the coastal town of Hengchun in Taiwan, Cape No. 7 is about the romance between an aspiring singer called Aga (played by Van Fan) and a Japanese concert promoter called Tomoko (Tanaka Chie). Their romance became somehow inextricably linked to seven undelivered love letters from a Japanese man to a woman in Taiwan that were written some 60 years ago. The film also has elements of a musical of sorts as it also tells the heartwarming story of how a motley crew of small-town Hengchun residents form an impromptu rock band for a seaside concert.

By all accounts, Cape's success was truly unexpected, although critically acclaimed overseas, Taiwanese movies historically do not fare all that well at the local box-office. Moreover, Cape's director Wei Te-Sheng was directing his first full-length feature and the film was made with a miniscule budget of only US$1.5 million. The film premiered in August with little fanfare but by positive word of mouth, the film soon became the talk of the town and attracted the attention of the local media which gave the film ample coverage in their reports, this of course led to even more stunning box-office figures in the months to follow - Cape No. 7 topped the box office in Taiwan for 8 weeks in a roll from the beginning of September to the end of October*.

Cape's massive success could also have fundamentally changed the landscape for locally produced Taiwanese productions as other local productions that were released at about the same time, such as Orz Boys and 1895, also enjoyed better than expected box-office takings. However, whether this change can be sustained in the long run remains to be seen....

Here is the 5-minute trailer of the film that I found on YouTube:

More movie news next time ;-)


Image from Wikipedia.

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