Get the Hell Out (逃出立法院, Wang I-Fan, 2020)

“A wrong movie makes you suffer for 90 minutes. A Wrong government makes you suffer for four years” according to the title card at the beginning of Wang I-Fan’s madcap Taiwanese comedy, Get the Hell Out (逃出立法院, Táo Chū Lìfǎyuàn). A deliberately unsubtle political satire, Wang’s debut feature ultimately has its heart in the right place as its hapless hero comes to the conclusion that he just wants to protect his “home” and, ironically starts to believe he can really do that through the democratic process now that the legislative palace has literally been destroyed and rebuilt, freed of “idiot” zombies. 

Bumbling security guard with a nosebleed problem Wang You-Wei (Bruce Ho) has relatively little interest in politics. In fact, he’s only working in the building because his childhood crush Ying-Ying (Megan Lai) has recently become an MP standing on a single issue of getting the building of a foreign chemical plant she holds responsible for a plague of “idiot” rabies in her home town cancelled. Despite the prevalance of actual physical fights in the parliament, Ying-Ying is forced to stand down after her rival colludes with friendly press to provoke her into a violent outburst which results in a barrage of misogynistic criticisms that she obviously has trouble controlling her emotions and is unfit for office. Trying to protect her in the fray, You-Wei becomes an accidental hero in the media for valiantly defending press freedom. What ensues is a battle of influence as both sides try to manipulate the political capital of You-Wei’s unexpected celebrity, Ying-Ying hoping to convince him to take over her seat and oppose the chemical plant, and her rival Kuo-Chung (Wang Chung-huang) hoping he’ll join his cypto-fascist “Better Generation” faction to support it. 

Openly described as a gangster, the garishly dressed Kuo-Chung is a symbol of thuggish, vacuous populist politics, expert at playing the system to his advantage. The irony is that You-Wei starts to use his political brain but is operating under a misapprehension. His goal is impressing Ying-Ying and he incorrectly assumes getting more power by throwing his lot in with Kuo-Chung will help him do that, but all she cares about is getting the chemical plant cancelled to save her hometown with a secondary goal of eliminating the threat from the weird “plague” she assumes is caused by toxic waste and turns the infected into rabid “idiots”. Some might say the political class is already zombified, a bunch of numbskulls drunk on power, or that it’s the populace who are sleepwalking through their lives, but no one was really prepared for the prime minister getting turned into a zombie after a meeting with a foreign head of state to discuss the economics of the chemical plant. 

As Ying-Ying puts it, she spent so much time fighting to get in to parliament, and now she’s desperately trying to fight her way out. Wang’s “infection” allegory takes direct aim at a corrupt political class who might not care about the various risks of the chemical plant because they only affect a small group of relatively poor people living in a remote coastal village while the supposed economic and political benefits are important for the national good. But what Ying-Ying and You-Wei come to realise is that the entire nation is their “home” and so they must protect it by making it better and that starts by curing the “plague” of “politics”. Nevertheless, even if you get rid of Kuo-Chung another like him will rise, identically dressed, in his place because the battle for democratic freedom is never really won. 

Wang throws every post-modern device he can think of at the screen from Streetfighter graphics to onscreen karaoke lyrics and ironic product placement in the greatest tradition of low budget, nonsense Taiwanese comedies with the necessary consequence that the gags come thick and fast and are largely disposable while the spy movie pastiche complete with megalomaniacal, techno-genius villain never quite takes off. Nevertheless, there is gory zombie action aplenty filmed with cartoonish glee and not a little irony as Ying-Ying and You-Wei attempt to fight their way out of the corrupt parliament before it all gets blown to hell only to walk right back in there afterwards with a positive message of altruism and personal responsibility as they commit to rebuilding better with a revitalised idealism and belief in the power of democracy purged of the plague of idiocy.


Get the Hell Out streamed as part of Scene Taiwan 2020.

Original trailer (English subtitles)

More than Blue (比悲傷更悲傷的故事, Gavin Lin, 2018)

More than blue poster“What’s so romantic about eternity?” asks the heroine of Gavin Lin’s remake of the 2009 Korean film More than Blue (比悲伤更悲伤的故事, Bǐ Bēishāng gèng Bēishāng de Gùshì). As the title, which literally translates as “a sadder than sad story”, implies More than Blue is another addition to Taiwanese cinema’s growing roster of melancholy romantic melodramas though this time one which rips a page from the “jun-ai” notebook as its selfless pair of lonely lovers engage in acts of mutual self sacrifice in an attempt to make each other “happy” while remaining quietly miserable as they contemplate a future which may not actually exist.

The hero, nicknamed K (Jasper Liu), lost his father to leukaemia when he was 16. His mother left shortly afterwards on learning that he too had the same disease, unable to cope with the pain of watching her son fade in the same way her husband had. Resigning himself to a life of loneliness, K eventually met “Cream” (Ivy Chen Yi-han), a cheerful and outgoing girl who lost her entire family in a traffic accident. The pair become friends, go to the same university, and eventually move in together but despite a brief fumble and innocent kiss their relationship remains entirely platonic. 10 years later, they’re working for the same record company where Cream is a lyricist and K in promotion. K’s illness is worsening and there’s no sign of a transplant. He has never told Cream about his medical history and now fearing that the end is near, he decides that the best thing to do is to push her towards a nice guy who can look after her after he is gone.

As someone else later points out, K’s decision is a little chauvinistic. Not only has he made it entirely alone, but he’s done so on fairly mercenary terms which imply Cream is not capable of looking after herself rather than solely of hoping to cushion the blow for the time when she must eventually lose him. After all, all relationships end one way or another and it’s impossible to live a life without loss without isolating yourself entirely from the rest of the human race. Then again, that had been K’s original reaction to his mother’s abandonment. Only Cream was able to bring him back into the world again through her goodhearted cheerfulness. K wants to spare her the pain of losing him and of being left behind alone, but perhaps that isn’t his decision to make.

Echoing the title of the movie, K affirms that it’s getting used to loneliness that is “sadder than sad” while also insisting that if anyone could understand the nature of love then no one in the world would suffer because of it. What K has is the wounded nobility of the jun-ai hero who has decided that it is his duty alone to suffer and that by suffering himself he can prevent his loved one from feeling the pain, but of course his emotional aloofness only makes things worse for everyone. Determined to make a brighter future for Cream, he smiles through the tears but neglects to consider that she may prefer a shorter present with him than a long life without. All his pointless romantic engineering amounts to is a silly waste of time during which they might both have been happy if only someone had found the courage for emotional honesty in the face of eventual heartbreak.

Lin wastes no time in letting us know this will be a tragic story through the slight disconnect of a framing sequence which casts the central romance as a lengthy flashback narrated by a peripheral figure to a frustrated music producer and her A-list idol star (played by real life singer A-Lin) who have fallen in love with an unrecorded track, “A Kind of Sorrow”, penned by Cream and performed by K. The song itself references the “darkness” within the pair born of their mutual losses, but also the light that love has brought into their lives. Cream gets into an argument with a poppy idol (who proves more astute than she at first seems) over the use of the world “eternity” within a love song. She doesn’t believe in the idea of eternity because love only lasts until one of the lovers is gone. Eternity, as we later discover, is found in the moment or more precisely in the moment of togetherness which is something both K and Cream have rejected in their escalating attempts at selfless nobility which have made them both individually miserable.

The lesson seems clear – just make the most of the time you have without worrying about the future and live honestly in the moment without regrets. Sadly, it’s a lesson the lovers of More than Blue fail to learn until it’s too late. Melodrama to the max it may be, and the strangely comic tone somewhat out of sync with the eventual destination, but there is real dark heart in More than Blue’s belief in the eternity of love even if also in its inherent tragedy.


Currently on limited release in UK cinemas courtesy of China Lion.

Original trailer (English subtitles)

A Kind of Sorrow as performed by A-Lin