A Mornng in Taipei, The Best Secret Agent          Taiwan Film Festival

Taiwan Film Festival Edinburgh returns for its second edition between 25 and 31 October with a fantastic range of Taiwanese cinema gems, many of them UK premieres, dating from the 1930s up to 2020, presented through in-person screenings and digital talks at Glasgow Film Theatre and Summerhall in Edinburgh and a free digital programme of films.

I took the opportunity to preview a couple of films in the programme, one documentary and one drama, both from the 1960s.

A Morning in Taipei (1964) Director Pai Jing-jui, gets its UK premiere here. The film opens in what appears to be the dead of the night, as neon lights pierce through the pitch darkness of the early hours of a typical morning in Taipei. Despite the early hour, people have already begun their day, newspapers are delivered, the postmen are out on their rounds, people are making excursions into the city centre, exercising in a park, or partaking in religious worship. The workday begins, actors prepare for a theatrical performance, and children play in the schoolyard. The day is full of wonder and possibility. Director Pai Jing-jui’s short documentary depicts a modern, industrious Taipei full of diverse and determined individuals as they perform their morning routines.

The Best Secret Agent (1964) Director Chang Ying, is the first Taiwanese-language spy film and a remake of the 1945 Shanghai spy thriller of the same name. The film takes place during the Sino-Japanese War, prior to World War 2. Tsui-ying (Bai Hong), is a femme fatale, who drives the narrative of the film in her quest for love and victory over her enemies. In the beginning, she flees from Japanese occupation with her father (Ke You-ming) and meets Ling-yun (Ke Jun-xiong), with whom she falls in love. In an unexpected turn of events, however, she marries Ling-yun’s uncle, Chao-chun (Tian Chin), a traitor who works for the Japanese government. Heartbroken, Ling-yun moves to the UK to study. Chao-chun’s work is constantly sabotaged by the Chinese resistance, commanded by secret agent Heaven 01, whose identity is a mystery.

This is a pretty impressive movie, given the obvious budget limitations the Director must have been working under (there only seems to be a handful of Japanese soldiers, for instance) and the plot contains any number of twists and turns that engage our attention throughout.

These are only two examples of the varied and fascinating programme at this year’s Festival, much of which is available online for free.

Tickets are available at

Website: www.taiwanfilmfestival.org.uk

Digital platform: https://online.taiwanfilmfestival.org.uk/

Jim Welsh

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