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Movie Critique: Typhoon (1962) directed by Pan Lei
Movie Critique: Typhoon (1962) directed by Pan Lei

Movie Critique: Typhoon (1962) directed by Pan Lei

There is no need for concern, this is just the initial phase of schizophrenia.

“Typhoon was a disruptive force in the Mandarin-speaking film industry that was dominated by propaganda and commercially-driven Taiwanese cinema. This film defies genre conventions and showcases the actors’ talent in their best roles. Director Pan Lei has a history of creating unconventional scripts and films that challenge official narratives. In Typhoon, he fully embraces sensuality, nature, and morally ambiguous characters.” – Wafa Ghermani, Cinemathèque française.

The film “Typhoon” is being shown at the Vesoul International Film Festival of Asian Cinema.

A couple in their middle years have been operating a remote weather station in the mountains. Their only company consists of an occasional mailman who delivers supplies and mail, and a beautiful local girl named Ah-hung who takes a particular interest in the man’s experiments on mice. The couple feels the loneliness of being isolated for many years, but the wife, Chun-li, has developed a problem with alcohol and her behavior is becoming more erratic, possibly indicating schizophrenia. Meanwhile, in Taipei, a young girl named Hsia-shan overhears her harsh and card-playing grandmother saying that she was adopted and unwanted in their home. Feeling unwanted and unloved, Hsia-shan decides to run away. As she wanders the streets, she crosses paths with a con man named Mr. Chang who is trying to escape the police. Hsia-shan agrees to help him by pretending to be his daughter. They end up at the weather station where they are taken in by the couple under the pretense of being relatives. However, Mr. Chang immediately starts making advances towards Chun-li, while Ah-hung also becomes a target of his attention. At the same time, Mr. Chang develops a strong bond with Hsia-shan. As a typhoon hits the area, it brings all the complex relationships to the surface.

Pan Lei directs a film with a complex storyline that primarily focuses on the struggles faced by a middle-aged wife, particularly in regards to her intimate desires, due to her husband’s neglect and obsession with work. The husband’s experiments with mice and alcohol further highlight the theme of eroticism, as well as the introduction of Mr. Chang, who plays the role of a seductive male counterpart to a femme fatale. The film follows the downward spiral of Chun-li, portrayed in a captivating manner through her frequent drinking and attempts to resist Mr. Chang’s advances. As the husband becomes suspicious, the tension intensifies and the party scene becomes a pivotal moment in the film.

The acting in this particular aspect is also greatly enhanced, with Tang Ching as Mr Chang and Mu Hong as Chun-li, who is always excessively dressed and overly made up, portraying their complex characters with enthusiasm and skill. Their excellent chemistry is also highlighted. Tang Pao-yun’s performance as Ah-hung is also noteworthy, with her cheerful and naive demeanor making her character quite likable. This earned her the Best Supporting Actress award at the Golden Horse Film Festival.

Additionally, Pan Lei cleverly utilizes the trapped mice as a symbol for the characters’ predicament and the typhoon as a means to intensify this situation. However, it also serves as a catalyst for the characters’ catharsis, particularly as they hit rock bottom. This element enables the audience to empathize and forgive the protagonists for their actions, as demonstrated by Mr. Chang’s compassion towards the young girl who views him as a father figure and Chun-li’s ultimate decision, emphasizing this aspect in a poignant manner.

The cinematography in the film is a standout feature, as the camera effectively captures the contrasting settings of Taipei’s urban landscape, Ali Mountain’s rural scenery, and the claustrophobic cabin. The framing in the party scene and the tense moment where the main characters are almost discovered is particularly impressive, thanks to its contextual significance. The editing adheres to conventional techniques, maintaining a fast pace that enhances the overall entertainment value of the film.

The movie “Typhoon” is exceptional in both its cinematic quality and its context, making it well deserving of the restoration it received in 2018.