T. or.: Qing mei zhu ma. Scen.: Edward Yang, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Chu T’ien-wen. F.: Yang Wei-han. M.: Wang Chi-yang, Song Fen-zen. Scgf.: Tsai Cheng-bin. Mus.: Edward Yang. Int.: Hou Hsiao-hsien (Lon), Tsai Chin (Chin), Lai Teh-nan (padre di Chin), Chen Su-fang (Miss Mei), Wu Nien-Jen (tassista), Ko I-Chen (architetto), Ko Su-wun (sorella di Chin). Prod.: Hou Hsiao- hsien, Lin Rong-feng. DCP. D.: 119’. Col.
My starting point was essentially conceptual. I wanted to tell a story about Taipei. There’s a personal element to that: a lot of people have tried to brand me as a mainlander, a foreign who’s somehow against Taiwan. But I consider myself a Taipei guy – I’m not against Taiwan. I’m for Taipei. I wanted to include every element of the city, so I really gave myself a hard time, to build a story from the ground up. The two main characters represent the past and the future of Taipei and the story is about the transition from one to the other. I tried to bring enough controversial questions onto the screen, so the viewers would ask themselves about their own lives when they’d seen the film.
Edward Yang, in John Anderson, Edward Yang, University of Illinois Press, Chicago 2005
[In Tapei Story], besides playing the leading role, I was also the producer. In one scene, a group of young people ride past the illuminated presidential palace on motorbikes; behind them on a protest banner are the words “The three principles unify China”. At the time, we were at the height of martial law in Taiwan and motorbikes and scooters were forbidden from passing in front of the presidential palace.
We shot the scene the day after a national holiday, the façade of the palace was covered in lights and its centrepiece was a portrait of the current president. The moment we were about to call action, we all became tense and excited, fearing that we would be arrested. Yet nobody noticed us; there wasn’t even a single guard; and so we even managed to shoot a second take. The next day we read in the newspaper that all the city’s police had been involved in a large scale operation to arrest an important gangster.
Only after having worked and talked a lot with Edward Yang did I understand that his point of view on daily life was very different from mine. For him Taiwan was an improbable reality dominated by a dictatorial power. At the same time, memories of his childhood would resurface in a very poetic fashion.
Hou Hsiao-hsien, in Jean-Michel Frodon, Le Cinéma d’Edward Yang, Éditions de l’éclat, Paris 2010