The cinema of Taiwan has a number of influences and particularities. This page will eventually become a collection of some of the themes, features and motifs of cinema in Taiwan.
Flower in the Rainy Night
A tragic symbol of a spurned woman.
Ethnomusicologist Nancy Guy points out the pervasiveness of this particular image in Taiwanese culture, which can be traced to a popular song by Zhou Tianwang in 1934, “U iā hoe” 雨夜花 or “Flower in a Rainy Night”. The lyrics of the song comprise the sad lament of a fallen woman.
A flower in the rainy night, flower in the rainy night, blown by wind and rain, falls to the ground / No one sees, my sighing every day; once the flower falls, it cannot return.
The flowers in the rain, then, stand in for a girl’s bitter fate and in particular the world of prostitution. By extension, the song and the image could be understood as Taiwan, the feminised victim under colonial rule. Guy charts the course of this song as a key symbol for Taiwan, featuring on karaoke playlists, Taiwanese opera, TV drama and referred to in books and harnessed by political candidates.Back to Top
Traditional Taiwanese opera, developed in Yilan county around 1915
Described by Huai-Yuan Belinda Chang as a “stylised presentation of conjoined elements including songs, dances, mime, music and dialogue”, gezaixi (literally ‘theatre of songs’) is a Taiwanese form of opera, distinct from the better-known Peking Opera, but sharing some superficial similarities.
Intellectuals claimed that gezaixi with its coarse words, salacious body movements, and love affair narratives, would instigate society, especially women and children, to commit immoral deedsHsieh Hsiao-Mei, Music From a Dying Nation, Taiwanese Opera in China and Taiwan during WW2
Hsieh Hsiao-Mei relates how Gezaixi, extremely popular in the 1920s, came under attack from various quarters: from some intellectuals who saw it as vulgar; from the occupying Japanese, who saw it as dangerously Chinese; from the Nationalists, who saw it as dangerously Taiwanese.
In his essay Articulating Sadness, Gendering Space: The Politics and Poetics of Taiyu Films from 1960s Taiwan, Yingjin Zhang traces the influence of Gezaixi on early Taiwanese-language films: the first two Taiyu films ever produced were both adaptations of Gezaixi. As well as the coarseness, colloquial language and humour mentioned above, Zhang adds another quality to the Gezaixi: that of sadness, the ‘bitter feelings’ 苦情 that are also a feature of many Taiyu songs. One film influenced by these sentiments is Early Train from Taipei.Back to Top
As James Udden explains in Taiwanese Popular Cinema and The Strange Apprenticeship of Hou Hsiao-Hsien, 1970s film in Taiwan was limited by the type of film stock available. The slower speed film they had forced a shallow depth of field. Rather than limiting the physical range of their productions, directors in Taiwan exploited the depth of field effect by placing foreground items in frame, which came out highly blurred. The desired effect was a softening or “beautifying” of the image and, to this end, directors would sometimes even allow these objects to obscure part of the action. No longer limited by such technical considerations, directors may still choose to blur the foreground for artistic reasons.Back to Top