Taipei Story Analysis – A 1985 Edward Yang Film

Taipei Story analysis includes viewing the consequences of the battle against modernity, set in a transformative era in Taiwan. Taipei Story, or “Green Plums and a Bamboo Horse” (Original Chinese name), is a 1985 Taiwanese movie directed by Edward Yang. The Chinese name is an idiom that refers to childhood sweethearts. Chin and Lung are childhood friends in the wake of Taiwan’s modernization. Their love for each other is tested by the meritocracies of their lives and the many changes they must undergo for self-actualization. Chin represents the populace shaped by the future lifestyle, whereas Lung finds it challenging to move on from his glory days and nostalgic feelings for his loved ones and home nation.

Representation of a Modern Taipei – Taipei Story Analysis

The movie consistently follows the same pace from start to finish in an almost hypnotic sense. Drawing the audience into the lives of Lung and Chin! It is a novel-like movie. Taipei Story features Taiwanese urban life, with neon sign boards and golden-lit roads.

Taipei Story is set in a transformative era in Taiwan. Chin is an independent (unmarried) woman living by herself. She’s unlike her mother, who is a mistress and quietly serves her abusive husband. Chin’s father is loyal to traditions, while Lung accepts modernism. Many new firms are being set up in Taiwan (Ms. Mei talks about how American and Japanese companies are opening their branches in Taipei), turning Taipei into another concrete jungle. At the beginning of the movie, there’s a scene where Chin’s architect friend says – “It’s getting harder for me to tell which ones I designed and which ones I didn’t. They all look the same!”  this shows the loss of individuality due to modernization and standardization of society.

The buildings of Taipei resonate with the loss of individuality in a fast paced society
The buildings of Taipei resonate with the loss of individuality in a fast-paced society

The rooftop scene with Chin and her sister embodies how meaningless life seems to be, as she goes on to say – “You can see everyone from up here, but no one can see you ” while looking down at the humdrum of the city, the cars, and the busy people.

This movie also tackles the effects of globalization and its promises. Moving to the United States is seen as an escape, a way to start a new life. Yang calls this an illusion. This must be because moving to a different country does not make life’s struggles magically disappear. They are just replaced with new ones.

Edward Yang Creates a Consistent Plot that Resonates with the Audience!

Taipei Story's  scenic setting featuring Taiwan's urban side
Taipei Story’s scenic setting features Taiwan’s urban side

The main plot is carefully intertwined with threads of subplots. We watch Chin and Lung’s relationship drama unfold while in the background, we have characters like Chin’s father, who happens to be the biggest burden in her life, and Ch’en, a former baseball player who has a troubling family life.

Lung’s interactions are full of melancholy and a feeling of loss. He is pessimistic as compared to Chin, who tries her best to enjoy her life, spending time with colleagues and friends. The dynamic between the two is one of care and understanding. No romanticism can be found in any of their interactions. While this might dissatisfy some, it gives a grey wash to the glowing city lights.

Every piece of the movie is interconnected and contributes to the viewers’ understanding of the characters and their reasoning. After each cut, the story keeps layering on itself until its culmination towards a bleak reality. With an unpredictable ending in the most ordinary and grounded way conceivable, there is much to take away from Taipei Story. It shows how life is surreal but also anchored by reality. One cannot fly too high, and neither can one stay too long on the ground.

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