FILM REVIEW: Landscape Of Kaohsiung
This is a double bill of two documentary films commissioned by the Kaohsiung Film Archive, Iâm-Tian Khu-Tiún and My Life With The Wave. Both films have much in common – their stories are inspired by the people, music and memories of Kaohsiung, the largest coastal city in Southern Taiwan.
Director: Adiong Lu, Huang Hao-Jie
Runtime: 97 min
Review by Leon Lau
The most interesting thing about Iâm-Tian Khu-Tiún (2018) is how it manages to illustrate the contrast between the past and present. Iâm-Tian Khu-Tiún was an infamous erotic song that was banned in the 60s for being too dirty, and the documentary recalls the history of this song through a series of nostalgic interviews.
But when you actually hear the lyrics, its shockingly tame by today’s standards. The song describes sexual acts but only through puns and euphemisms. Compare that with songs released today, where sex is openly talked and described in crude terms. It’s amusing to see all the fuss over what is now a pretty inoffensive song.
As someone who is unfamiliar with Taiwan apart from its night markets, it was refreshing to see such a different side of it. There are plenty of beautiful, aerial shots of the landscape interspersed throughout the documentary, giving it a serene mood as we learn more about the history of Iâm-Tian Khu-Tiún. What surprised me the most in particular was the genesis of the song and how it was treated like an urban legend.
Through its series of collected interviews from people who have lived through the 60s in Kaohsiung, Iâm-Tian Khu-Tiún felt like an authentic journey down a part of Taiwanese history that outsiders like myself might not be familiar with. I do wish it was a little more concise, as the pacing felt a little slow at times.
The second documentary, My Life With The Wave (2018) covers similar themes in dramatically different ways. The mood and presentation is less formal than Iâm-Tian Khu-Tiún, with a louder, more energetic vibe to reflect the modern times. We follow two men, Tz-Fan Hsu and Thomas, as they follow their musical passions. Tz-Fan Hsu’s music is much more experimental while Thomas’s band uses more traditional instruments and aims to have meaningful lyrics.
My Life With The Wave focuses a surprising amount on their private lives, which includes the hobbies that they have outside of music. I was not expecting the filmmakers to show how Tz-Fan Hsu was also passionate about screen printing, drawing, as well as taking care of his family. It portrays him as a more well-rounded subject, and helps to humanise the people in the documentary as more than just musicians.
By presenting these two documentaries back to back in one feature, Landscape of Kaohsiung gives us a good overview of what life was like through two drastically different eras of music. It shows us a different side of Taiwan that we rarely see in popular media, one that is a little more gritty than you might expect.
Singapore Chinese Film Festival (SCFF)
Co-organised by the Singapore Film Society and Singapore University of Social Sciences, the Singapore Chinese Film Festival (SCFF) seeks to cultivate an appreciation of independent Chinese cinema. With works from documentaries to shorts to full-length feature films, SCFF showcases the diversity of cultures and languages explored by Chinese filmmakers.