Taipei may not be a city renowned for romance, but in the hands of writer-director Arvin Chen, Taiwan’s capital is transformed into the Asian equivalent of Paris. Chen was inspired in creating this effervescent and adventurously absurdist love story by the French New Wave, specifically films such as Godard’s Band of Outsiders. The result is an award-winning directorial debut that has charmed festival audiences around the world.
Like Band of Outsiders, Au Revoir Taipei features criminal hijinx and a love triangle, but is composed with a delicate touch. It is entirely appropriate that Taipei begins with the French voiceover of young Kai, who is attempting to write a letter in the Romance language to impress his Paris-bound girlfriend. Kai is a dreamer, and his wish is to join his love in Europe. Meanwhile, at the bookstore Kai frequents, a girl named Susie has her eyes on him, though he is oblivious to this fact. Neither foresees how their relationship will soon develop, as they are thrust into a nighttime chase across neon-lit Taipei by neophyte gangsters. Joining them is Ji-Yong, a handsome young policeman with his own romantic entanglements.
What separates Au Revoir Taipei from other recent Taiwanese productions is how much fun everyone seems to have in the film — and the energy is infectious. The film displays dazzling visuals and energetic cinematography, as well as an appropriately jazzy, French-inflected soundtrack.
Chen is one of the latest Asian Americans who has returned to Asia to forge a film career. What distinguishes him from others is his understanding of Taipei, and the love he clearly has for it.
– Raymond Phathanavirangoon