Cape No. 7 (2008)

By Laura Gatewood

Taiwan

(Hai-kak chhit-ho)
Cape No. 7, a Taiwanese import that evidently had a Titanic-esque success upon its release and became Taiwan’s highest grossing film ever, must have a charm in its native language that doesn’t translate to foreign audiences.
Premiering at Taipei’s film festival, Cape No. 7 tells the jumbled stories of a local rag tag band finding success when they get the opportunity to open for a huge Japanese super star, while the lead singer develops an inorganic romance with the beautiful Japanese model turned band manager, a mismatched “main” side-story about the lead singer discovering a star-crossed lover’s letters and trying to find their broken hearted recipient fifty years after they were written, and about five or six other side stories that never become coherent enough to describe. As a mish-mash of undeveloped or unsympathetic characters, confusing actions not precipitated by logical motivations, and erratic story-telling, Cape No. 7 might have been loved by Taiwanese audiences but failed to impress critics outside of the country and rightly so.
The movie begins with a hyper-stylized shot of a lovelorn man aboard a mid-century ocean liner staring at the ocean and in voice-over drafting a letter to a love he regrets leaving behind. Setting a romantic tone, both in look and feel, Cape No. 7 then shifts very abruptly to present day and an introduction to the lead protagonist, Aga (Van) a 20-something would be misanthropic rocker making ends meet with a day job sorting and delivering the mail that he only performs when he feels like it. Aga is the kind of boy or Van is the kind of actor who only seems to have one go-to expression on his face throughout the entire movie, that expression being “sullen”. During one of Aga’s failures to deliver the mail he is given, he discovers a box of letters written fifty years prior to a young Taiwanese girl by a Japanese man who leaves her behind during a forced evacuation after WWII and has regretted it ever since. The identity of the girl, though, is a mystery, and Aga reads them with the lazy intention of one day find their true owner.
 Then the opening credits roll, mentioned here only because the opening credits might be the best part of the movie, all because of a very hip and easy to listen to rock song that plays over them. After the song ends, the movie moves on to wander around a Taiwanese small beach-side town while introducing a colorful cast of characters that all seem prone to emotional outbursts that don’t make much sense. The most important other character brought to the fore is Tomoko(Chie Tanaka), a Japanese model turned model wrangler who improbably becomes Aga’s band manager and even more inconceivably falls unreasonably in love with Aga after only watching him perform, since the two characters don’t seem to have any scenes together before suddenly Tomoko is declaring her love by throwing herself prone and screaming on Aga’s front lawn, a move that actually works, as instead of acquiring a Taiwanese version of a restraining order, Aga takes her up to his apartment and they spend the night together. Tomoko reads the love letters Aga has discovered and she decides to search for their rightful owner, a feat she finally, and unsurprisingly, manages by the end of the movie. In the meantime, much lovers sparring occurs before Aga concedes to be with Tomoko for good via a song he sings to her during the band’s one night only performance that closes the movie.
Cape No. 7 never reaches any sort of watchability level, moving too sporadically from one character story-thread to another, as it tries to set-up the climax of the film where Aga’s “band” will make good after several false starts, which it inevitably will, this being a feel good movie after all. It could have been a better movie, had the director, Te-Sheng Wei, chosen a firmer story-telling path and style, made his lead male less annoyingly devoid of personality, his lead female more stoic, and his star-crossed lovers side story (meant to be replayed but this time with a happier ending between Tomoko and Aga) better connected both in character and back story to the present day plot as it plays out in the film. So ultimately, Cape No. 7 is better appreciated in concept than in execution.
Directed, produced and written by: Te-Sheng Wei
Cinematography: Ting-chang Chin
Editing: Lai Hui-Chuan and Pei-yi Su
Music: Lu Fred and Chi-Yi Lo
Sound: Du-Che Tu
Visual Effects: Tony Hu and Johnny Lin
Cast
Aga: Van
Tomoko: Chie Tanaka
Rauma: Min-Hsiung
Frog: Wei-min Ying
Malasun: Nien-Hsien Ma
Old Mao: Johnny Chung-Jen Li
Dada: Joanne
Mingchu: Shino Lin
 

 

 

 

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