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Dada's Dance

Guey Lun-Mei and Chang Chen in Parking.
Chinese: 停車  
Year: 2008
Director: Chung Mung-Hong  
Writer: Chung Mung-Hong
Cast: Chang Chen, Guey Lun-Mei, Jack Kao, Chapman To Man-Chat, Leon Dai, Peggy Tseng, Lin Kai-Jung, King Shih-Chieh, Chung Hua-Tou, Jia Xiao-Guo
The Skinny:

Entertaining black comedy about one man's adventures in the Taipei evening. The story loses its focus from time-to-time, but the characters and situations always prove involving. A technically accomplished, attention-grabbing and very worthwhile debut from director Chung Mung-Hong.

by Kozo:
Director Chung Mong-Hong delivers an attention-getting debut with Parking, an urban black comedy boasting an impressive cast and an entertaining, subversive edge. Chang Chen stars as Chen Mo, an average Joe who parks his car in a Taipei neighborhood on Mother's Day to buy some cakes for the evening's dinner. Afterwards, he finds his car double-parked in, beginning a strange, funny, and sometimes surprising journey into the Taipei evening, which isn't as extreme or over-the-top as one might expect from the After Hours-ish premise. Interesting characters, off-color situations, and fine performances follow, as well some content that doesn't seem to cohere. At a certain point, the story loses focus, and Parking ends up doing less than it attempts. However, that may be nitpicking; Parking isn't totally complete, but the ride is entertaining, involving, and very much worth the time.

After getting parked in, Chen Mo looks for the owner of the offending car, and asks around for leads. He's pointed towards an old couple in the neighborhood and he pays them a visit, but the blind wife mistakes him for their long-missing son. After some awkward moments, he befriends their granddaughter and even stays for dinner, which is enough time for the owner of the offending car to leave. But before you know it, Chen Mo has another mishap, and he isn't able to leave before another car blocks him in. Rinse and repeat, with Chen Mo encountering new people and situations with each passing hour that his car is trapped. Besides the elderly couple and their granddaughter, Chen meets a one-handed barber (Jack Gao), a snarling pimp (Leon Dai), a rebellious Mainland prostitute (Peggy Tseng), a pathetic tailor (Chapman To), and some gangsters who Chen, in a moment of frustration, accidentally offends. Also, when he has a moment, Chen thinks about his own personal issues involving his frustrated wife (Guey Lun-Mei).

The circumstances give Chen Mo and the audience time to learn about these disparate, sometimes colorfully drawn characters. Each encounter reveals facets of the characters through flashbacks or verbal revelation. Sometimes the details are darkly funny, like when Chen Mo finds a fish head in the barber's bathroom sink. Sometimes they reveal ironic truths, like when we learn how the pimp and the prostitute made it to Hong Kong. At worst, the interludes are unfathomable, providing interesting, sordid, but not fully supported details. There's a lot going on in Parking, but once you get by the quirkiness, the whole becomes questionably cohesive. What's Chung Mong-Hong's goal here? Is this supposed to be a drama about messed-up characters, or is Parking merely quirk for quirk's sake? Or is something even deeper going on here?

The answer to that last question seems to be "maybe". Chung Mong-Hong loads Parking with details that attempt meaning, if not a greater emotional response from the audience. There's a fixation with the number eight (there are frequent references to periods of eight months or years), and there is a suspicious design to the arrangement of the characters and their stories. The characters all hail from different Chinese areas - Hong Kong, Mainland China, Taiwan - and each is stuck in a stifling circumstance, trapped by their lives or choices, with the their inertia bleeding into their everyday lives. It's almost like they're all parked in, just like Chen Mo! Perhaps that interpretation is a bit pretentious, but it's one way that viewers can read Chung Mong-Hong's work. Parking doesn't entirely cohere, and seems to imply that there's a method to the onscreen madness. However, if that method is not explained, then the film only seems unsatisfying. Parking seems to be saying a lot, but it doesn't make clear what that "lot" is.

Still, despite the story not being totally coherent, there's still plenty to recommend here. Chung Mong-Hong's confident staging and engrossing atmosphere possess their own power, and the whole work manages a character of its own. Chung does triple-duty as the film's writer, director, and cinematographer, and he brings an edgy and involving feel to his portrait of the Taipei night. Whatever the outcome, Chung creates immediate drama and emotion, and he's well supported by his cast. Leon Dai, Chapman To, Jack Gao and Guey Lun-Mei excel in their roles, and Chang Chen is very watchable as the lead. His character is hard to completely understand, but Chang makes it seem that something is always going inside his charismatic and opaque exterior. His character is microcosm of the whole film - he doesn't always make sense, but he's very much worth watching. Similarly, Parking has flaws, but they're worth overlooking, otherwise the viewer would miss out on an enjoyable and remarkably assured directorial debut. Whatever second feature Chung Mong-Hong has planned is undoubtedly worth looking out for. (Kozo, Reviewed at the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival, 2008)


DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Kam and Ronson
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Mandarin, Cantonese, and Taiwanese Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English Subtitles

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