A Place of One's Own -- Film Review

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HONG KONG -- Real estate is a matter of life and death in Ian Lou's "A Place of One's Own." It probes the real and abstract meanings of space on many levels -- through its depiction of characters threatened with dispossession from their homes and of young people struggling to find a place in Taipei's cold, competitive society.

Those who fell for the visual magic and richly disparate omnibus structure of "God Man Dog" will warm to this film, which employs much the same crew and poetic film language as "God." By comparison, the multi-threaded narrative of "A Place" converges and coheres in a more organic way.
The casting of emerging Taiwan idols helps secure a domestic release. Elsewhere, an itinerary of Asian-themed and art house/fest travel awaits this small but thoughtful film.

"A Place" is half-devoted to a conventional romance set in the fickle pop-rock scene. However, the script fans out more engagingly in the other half, which is a black comedy on absurd attachment to life and superstitious yearnings for immortality.

One-time bandleader Mozi's (Mo Tzu-yi) career flamed out after being caught possessing hash. Heavily in debt, he faces eviction from his mortgaged house. This creates a strain in his relationship with girlfriend Kasey (Lu Chia-hsin), who is on the fast-track to pop stardom.

Lin (a marvelously deadpan Jack Kao) is an artisan of origami -- elaborate paper houses burned as funeral offerings. His wife sweeps graves and chitchats with ghosts still hung up about their living loves. When Lin is diagnosed with cancer, he throws himself into making a palatial paper house as grandiose as the Taj Mahal for his own postmortem enjoyment. Ironically, he is about to lose his real home to loan sharks and manipulative property magnets eyeing the land's good feng shui as an ancestral grave.

Lou pokes fun at the human desire to replicate, or even upgrade materialistic comforts in the afterlife. A triad client's request to furnish his origami house with paper firearms and surveillance systems amusingly attests to this. While he reveals the self-interested motive of Confucian ancestor worship, he also celebrates the unspoken affection in Lin's family, especially Lin's hope to bequeath luck to his son through his death.

"A Place" is a follow-up to "God Man Dog" in its concern for Aboriginals' social dispossession and fascination with fading traditional customs and crafts of Taiwan. The magnificent paper houses contribute a vibrant color palette to the decorative art direction.

Production company: The 3rd Vision Films/ Fame Universal Entertainment Ltd.

Cast: Mo Tzu-Yi, Jack Kao, Lu Yi-Jing, Lu Jia-Xin
Director-screenwriter: Lou Yi-an
Screenwriter: Singing Chen
Producers: Singing Chen, Ramy Choi
Director of photography: Shen Ko-Shang
Production designer: Huang Mei-Shing
Costume designer: Vovi Huang
Music: ShowyShowy
Editor: Chen Xiao-Dong
Sales: Fame Universal Entertainment Ltd
No rating, 118 minutes
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