I’m trying to catch up on some of the older movies Bolin Chen has made, actually Taiwan movies in general! There’s a few recent ones that look interesting but I haven’t had a chance to see them yet. One of these is Snowfall in Taipei (台北飄雪) which was made in 2009 or 2010, shown in a few film festivals but finally got a theatrical release in Taiwan last year after Bolin became a household name because of In Time with You.
A collaboration between Mainland China, Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong, Snowfall in Taipei in an adaptation from a Japanese novel. It tells the story of Xiao Mo (Bolin Chen) who lives in a quiet old town outside Taipei. He appears to be the cheery, happy go-lucky guy who knows everyone in town because he does a lot of odd jobs for them. One day, he meets May (Tong Yao) an upcoming new singer who is on the verge of stardom, but suddenly lost her voice. She ran away from her career while her music producer Ray (Tony Yang) and a reporter Jack (Morning Mo) searches for her. Xiao Mo helps her settle in the little town, finding her a place to live, a job and hopefully her voice. Feelings start to develop between Xiao Mo and May…
Snowfall in Taipei is the type of movie you want to watch on a rainy day. Those Sunday afternoons where you just want to chill out, have a cup of tea and relax. Running at a non-demanding 95 minutes, we see a glimpse of Taiwan’s countryside, Jing Tong (菁桐) in particular – which is probably the most outstanding part of this film. The scenery is breathtaking and I’m quite ready to run away there some time in the future too. (Although it seems to rain a lot, which is not so good for travellers.)
If the scenery was the best part of this movie, what about all the good looking actors? Sure, Bolin Chen and Tong Yao (who is a dead ringer for Zhang Zi Yi back in her Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon days) are aesthetically pleasing with solid acting skills. Plus we have a supporting cast consisting of Tony Yang, Janel Tsai and Morning Mo. They have gathered the right people for this project but the downfall? They don’t have much to work with.
The real problem of this film is the script. Mainland Chinese Director Huo Jian Qi did a better job at selling Jing Tong as a tourism destination than telling a story about self discovery, where one escapes the realities of real life to rethink their priorities and refocus. I hope this wasn’t because I was watching this without subtitles, so I could only really understand maybe 70-80% of the film. But the script never really gave the audience enough insight into each of the characters. At the centre of the story, we have May who ran away from her music career. But why? Why did she lose her voice? For most of the movie I thought she was already a famous singer but that’s not the case. Maybe it was hinted she ran away partly because of her love for her music producer Ray. So were May and Ray (it rhymes!) ever together? Or did she just admired him? I’m confused. But Tony Yang’s role here was more of a cameo since he didn’t have many scenes at all. To be honest he looks pretty stoned for most of those scenes? Is that supposed to show he’s the ‘musician’ type?
Xiao Mo’s history had the better explanation – he chose to stay in the old town because his mother abandoned him when he was young and he’s there, waiting for her return. However, the motivations behind why he helped May were not as obvious. Sure, he’s a nice guy and all… maybe he finds her pretty? Possibly intriguing because she’s an ‘outsider’? These are all my assumptions. After Xiao Mo and May spent some time together I guess it’s inevitable there’ll be a ‘hint’ of romance between them. I think this movie was billed as a ‘romance’ film. But I say ‘hint’, because even after all their scenes together their friendship seem more natural. I couldn’t feel any romantic chemistry between them.
Morning Mo’s (Mo Tzu Yi) portrayal of reporter Jack was a surprise though. I only heard of him before since he was nominated for Best Actor in the Golden Bells this year. His character also sufferred because of the script, but he probably had the best line in the movie:
Why do you think people run away? What’s the point of disappearing if no one looks for you?
It was through his words that persuaded Xiao Mo to think about why his mother left. Did she disappear because she wanted to be found? At least this gave Xiao Mo another perspective he hadn’t thought of before. The explanation as to why Jack was so determined to find May was not very clear. I think they tried to explain it, but it seemed odd. As if the writer just decided to add it in without much set up.
The ‘snowfall’ in the movie tried to represent the idea of miracles, I think. In writing this review I feel like I’m assuming a lot of things because the more I think about the motivations of the major characters, their backgrounds, and tie it back to the movie title, I’m unable to connect the dots. I wonder if the original Japanese novel they adapted from was like this. I’m one of those people who enjoys reading books that have been adapted to movies so if I ever find a copy of this book, I might read it because I’m curious!
Overall, Snowfall in Taipei was enjoyable enough with the beautiful people and scenery. Bolin Chen and Tong Yao share most of the screentime so fans will not disappoint. Everyone else hardly made an impact. If you’re familiar with Cheer Chen’s music you will know a lot of songs in the soundtrack. (Although may seem weird that May is lipsyncing to her songs?) Jing Tong should use this movie to promote themselves as a tourist attraction.