Tales of a Porous City: Public Residences and Private Streets in Taipei Films

  • Yomi Braester


In Taipei, walls crumble, ceilings cave in, and spaces portend their impending destruction—or so the city is portrayed by some of its most prominent filmmakers. The directors Edward Yang (Yang Dechang) and Tsai Ming-liang (Cai Mingliang) present two mirroring aspects of urban ruin. Tsai has focused on sites of doom and vanishing cityscapes. In Dong (The Hole, 1998), two residents cope with the growing porosity of their damaged and leaking apartments, while Taipei is under quarantine because of an epidemic outbreak. The short Tianqiao bu jian le (The Skywalk is Gone) focuses on the sky walk in front of the New Railway Station, which was torn down since filming Tsai’s Ni neibian jidian (What Time is it There?, 2001). Bu san (English title Goodbye, Dragon Inn, 2003) takes place in Fuhe Grand Theater in Yong-ho, designated for demolition and razed soon after the shoot. Edward Yang’s Taipei, on the other hand, is mostly affluent and chic. Yet glittering images of the prosperous city provide an ironic commentary on the breakdown of interpersonal relations. The deep unrest is foregrounded against the fashionably designed hangouts of the jet set.


Public Space Urban Space City Dweller English Title Modern Chinese Literature 
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© Charles A. Laughlin 2005

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  • Yomi Braester

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