The golden years of the first-generation Taiwanese cinema goes from the period 1965 - 1974. During this period, films have been categorised as the 'Healthy Realism' which was promoted by the Central Motion Picture Corporation (CPMC), owned by the Kuo-Min-Tang party (KMP party). The healthy realism's cinematic genre focuses on martial arts (wuxia and kung fu), romanticism and propaganda contents. In other words, Healthy Realism seems to be like a combination of propaganda and escapism for the society.
Healthy realism started to decline in late 1970 because of the rise of television media and the influence of westernisation. Not until late 1980, martial law introduced by Kai-Shek Chiang finally lifted. This provided opportunities for film industries to have the freedom to create stories they wanted to tell. The Terrorizers (1986) by Edward Yang and A Summer at Grandpa's (1984) by Hsiao-Hsien Hou, are from this period (aka the second-generation Taiwanese cinemas) and it shows the changes of culture, landscape, and the people. In a way, their works documented the society that is no longer oppressed by the government, but instead the culture itself.
Second-generation Taiwanese cinema continues in the 90s but the narratives shift from identity representation to the emptiness of society and youth; such as Rebels of the Neon God (1992) and The Hole (1998) by Ming-Liang Tasi. Director Tasi's social realism represents the dreamless of youth, father and son’s distance relationship and unpolished city life. Unlike Hsiao-Hsien Hou or Edward Yang that both lives and see the changes of urban to city life, Director Tsai lives in the city and sees the people even in the corner of the street. We can go on for pages to discuss Director Tasi's films, but we will leave that for the next time.
More films from the late 1990s to 2000, included in the Neon Gods program are:
Eat Drink Man Woman (1994) and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) by Ang Lee
Yi Yi (2000) by Edward Yang
Three Times (2005) by Hsiao-Hsien Hou
Small Talk (2016) by Hui-Chen Huang
Truly a beautiful program and there is just not enough space to write and discuss every film. We will break it down for you monthly and also include some film reviews to discuss more of those masterpieces.
Rebels of Neon God and A Summer at Grandpa's both will be playing at Art Gallery of NSW this February. Don't miss out! Full Program: Here
Tickets: available outside the Domain Theatre from one hour before each screening. Arrive early to avoid disappointment.
Artgallery.nsw.gov.au. (2019). Film series: Neon gods :: Art Gallery NSW. [online] Available at: https://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/calendar/neon-gods/.
Chiang, M. (2013). Healthy Realism: Paradoxical Aesthetics, Ideology, and Nation Building in Taiwan Cinema 1964-1982. [online] Ideals.illinois.edu. Available at: https://www.ideals.illinois.edu/bitstream/handle/2142/46902/Mei-%20Hsuan_Chiang.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y [Accessed 20 Feb. 2019].
Huang, j. (2005). The Chronicle of Taiwan Cinema, 1898-2000. 1st ed. Taipei: 行政院文化建設委員會.
Written by Benson Wu, Edited by Sonia Luan