Director: Arvin Chen
Starring: Jack Yao, Amber Kuo, Lawrence Ko, Joseph Chang, Tony Yang, Jack Kao
Kai (Jack Lao) is a young man who spends most of his free time in a bookstore studying French texts in order to become fluent in the language because his girlfriend has traveled to Paris with the promise between them to meet together again when he has saved enough money for the trip. Because of his daily trips to the bookstore, he strikes up an acquaintance with store clerk Susie (Amber Kuo) and is seemingly ignorant of her interest in him. Hong (Lawrence Ko) is the nephew and employee of Bao (Frankie Kao), an old time criminal looking to retire and leave his legit real estate business to Hong. Hong, however, is not content with a normal life and looks to inject ‘action’ into his lifestyle by engaging in petty thefts along with his trio of bumbling underlings. When Kai’s girlfriend breaks up with him, he turns to Bao for the money to travel to Paris to get her back and accepts an apparently simple delivery job carrying a mysterious package. When Hong decides to intercept the package, he sets into motion a scramble for the parcel which includes police officer Ji-yong (Joseph Chang), his friend Gao (Paul Chiang), Hong’s stooges, and the elderly Bao. With the unlucky Susie by his side, Kai goes through a quirky night to remember which may change his life forever.
Shot amidst the nightlife of Taipei, Au Revoir Taipei is as much a love letter to the city as it is a narrative picture. The city is alive with vibrantly colored signs, congested street, quiet alleyways, and odd residents. Photography and camera movement is very clean with interesting angles and perspectives that really put the viewer into the city themselves. The music is fantastic as well, with composer Wen Hsu providing a score reminiscent of Django Reinhardt and the swing era. It is very catchy and the quirky style of the film is seriously helped by it.
There are a number of nice little points included in the film that helps the few less interesting scenes along. Taking place mostly during a single evening, a number of characters seem to be watching a hilariously terrible soap opera that oddly resonates with the events of the film as well as tying the movement of time with the goings-ons onscreen. Food is another thematic element in the film, a theme I always welcome in my movies. With dumplings, noodles, and more on display, the act of eating in the film is analogous to the relationships on screen. It breaks down boundaries, it characterizes relationships, and it can connect people. Indeed, the food in the film plays a big role while not technically earning it a ‘food’ genre moniker.
With a large cast, director Arvin Chen gives little moments to everyone which reveal character and nice little moments of revelation. Not a lot is put out there in the open, but comments and physical acting are very good and carry the film right along. Amber Kuo is the breakthrough actor as Susie, the cute and conflicted female lead that is helping her crush leave the city to be with another. She is hugely sympathetic and finds that with Kai leaving in the morning, this may be the last and only night to spend time together with him. At first timid, as events continue to escalate, she easily finds herself rising to the occasion, even taking charge at points.
Au Revoir Taipei is one of those films that put a seriously big smile on my face. While not laugh out loud funny, the film’s lo key approach to humor had an almost continuous smirk on my face. While without any considerable shakeups to the genre, this is a comedy done right and could honestly take place in any country in the world. Humorous throughout with a good cast of actors and great soundtrack, Au Revoir Taipei is a hugely entertaining picture that I’d recommend to anyone. Au Revoir means goodbye in French, but every goodbye leads to another hello and the film does an admirable job of bringing this sentiment to the fore.
You may enjoy this film if you liked: Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Mystery Train, Before Sunrise, Midnight in Paris, and Chungking Express