For the first time in the UK, masterpieces from 1980s, 90s, and 00s Taiwanese cinema will be screened collectively in a groundbreaking new season at The Garden Cinema.
Geopolitically unique, Taiwan [Republic of China] defines itself through and against a notoriously unstable relationship with Mainland China and the high stakes cultural, technological, and military competition that continues to escalate both regionally and globally.
It is tempting to draw similar comparisons between the cinema of Taiwan and the Mainland which pit creative freedom against state censorship, and cultural conservatism against progressive social attitudes. But whilst there is value in such assessments, to view New Taiwanese Cinema through such a prism is to negate more localised cultural and industrial currents and tensions in Taiwan during the late 20th century. Early portmanteau films in this season (In Our Time and The Sandwich Man) were produced through the Government’s Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC) in an attempt to define an authentic national cinematic style. But it was not until the 1987 Taiwan Cinema Manifesto that a concerted, and auteur driven, effort to deviate from the commercial style of filmmaking (effectively mimicking Hong Kong and Hollywood), arose. Whilst this marks a controversial moment in Taiwan cinema that sparked debates over the relationship between art, entertainment, and commerce, the subsequent period from the late 1980s to early 2000s saw the refinement of a cinematic movement that would result in some of the most beloved and highly regarded films of all time, made by a group of now-legendary directors.
Predicated around three pillars of Taiwanese cinema, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Edward Yang, and Tsai Ming-liang, this new season invites audiences to engage with a selection of films from the first (1980s) and second (1990s-2000s) waves of New Taiwanese Cinema on their own aesthetic and narrative terms, as well as within wider national and international contexts. Hou’s international breakthrough, the autobiographical A Time to Live, a Time to Die plays alongside the sumptuous new restoration of Flowers of Shanghai. Two of Tsai’s 90s queer cinema classics, Rebels of the Neon God and Vive L’Amour, complement his timeless meditation on cinema going, Goodbye, Dragon Inn (presented here in a double bill with King Hu’s wuxia classic Dragon Inn). Edward Yang is celebrated here with two works considered to be amongst the greatest of all time: his epic A Brighter Summer Day and Yi Yi.
Guided by regular introductions and discussion groups, these screenings offer the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in the cinema of Taiwan for the first time, or to experience these classics anew on the big screen.