Heartbreak Island | Movie Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Heartbreak Island



Heartbreak Island

The end of martial law in 1987 freed Taiwanese directors to deal head-on with past controversial events. One such incident was the government crackdown on democracy protesters in Kaoshiung in 1979. Hsu Hsiao-ming, in adapting the best-selling novel by Tong Nien, explores the ironies of the fading collective memories of those living in present-day Taiwan, whose transformation the protest had expedited. The film follows a jailed student dissident's reentry into a world grown comfortable with material well-being and preoccupied more with making money than politics. In the 70s the protagonist, Lin-lang, had been deeply in love with her teacher Wong Ron, who introduced her to the opposition movement. When he was arrested for his leadership in the protest, she joined a terrorist group seeking revenge. Now, pardoned after more than a decade in prison, Lin-lang returns to her old haunts. A marginalized figure, she finds disillusionment everywhere; worst of all, her ex-lover is not dead, as she was led to believe, but is the owner of a cafe and has a family. Lin-lang's gradual descent into madness, Hsu suggests, is at once pathetic and heroic, the fate of a victim of passion and a martyr to a cause. With deliberate pacing and unblinking long takes--a bare-bones style comparable to that of his mentor, Hou Hsiao-hsien--Hsu tracks Lin-lang's slow fade. His effort is greatly aided by Vicky Wei's portrayal of simmering anger and dying hope. Facets Multimedia Center, 1517 W. Fullerton, Friday, August 30, 6:30 and 8:45; Saturday and Sunday, August 31 and September 1, 3:15, 5:30, and 7:45; and Monday through Thursday, September 2 through 5, 6:30 and 8:45; 281-4114.

--Ted Shen

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo from Heartbreak Island.

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