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July 04, 2013

When a Wolf Falls in Love with a Sheep

when a wolf falls in love with a sheep poster.jpg

Nan fang xiao yang mu chang
Hou Chi-jan - 2012
IVL Region 3 DVD

Sometimes the sheep is a bit aggressive, while the wolf might be the one hunted. I'm not sure is calling this Taiwanese film a romantic comedy is quite right either as the mood shifts from lightly comic to an equally light melancholia. I'm not even sure if the wolf and sheep fall in love at the end. It's more like they fulfill some kind of emotional need, taking up the void created when their respective past loves left them.

This is a souffle of a movie, and for the most part Hou Chi-jan keeps it light. Some aspects are very culturally specific, such as having much of the film take place in a "cram school" on a street dotted with small shops run by one or two people, and street noodle vendors. Hou also makes use of puns that are untranslatable. There is still more than enough for those unfamiliar with the culture to enjoy. The location, Nanyang Street, is a famed location in Taipei, known for its cram schools. Hou makes use of animated cartoons and stop-motion animation along the way in this story about love lost and found, recycling, and the advantage of a good disguise.

when a wolf falls in love with a sheep 1.jpg

A young man, Tung, wakes up to find that his girlfriend, Ying, as left him. The post-it note left on his forehead states that she has gone to cram school. Eventually Tung realizes that Ying has gone for good. Literally stumbling into a job at a photocopy shop in Nanyang Street, where cram school exams are printed, Tung meets Yang at the school where she works as a teaching assistant. Yang's drawings of a cartoon sheep are eventually enlivened by the encounter of Tung's cartoon Big Bad Wolf.

Unlike the more conventionally attractive Ying, played by model-actress Nikki Hsieh, Yang (Chien Man-shu) , with her boyishly short hair and big eyes, gets into Tung's life mostly by frequently showing up. Part of their time spent is with indirect negotiations about what kind of relationship they want, especially in view of the disappointments that life has thrown at them. Dogs are lost while cats are found. Obsolete electronics are given new life. Much like his characters, Hou takes an indirect route in his story, taking time to enjoy rainfall in Taipei accompanied by an instrumental rendering the 1962 pop hit, "Rhythm of the Rain".

When a Wolf Falls in Love with a Sheep has played at the Udine Far East Film Festival and the New York Asian Film Festival. The special effects, which include clouds that appear as numbers, were nominated in the recent Asian Film Awards, as was Chien Man-shu as Best Newcomer.

Posted by peter at July 4, 2013 02:07 PM