Chen Mo (Chang Chen) was just trying to pick up a cake for his wife on his way home from work and score himself some "make-up" sex. He wasn't planning on being mistaken for a long-dead relative. He never imagined he'd find himself involved in the affairs of loan-sharks and prostitute rings, nor did he expect to be play foosball with a one-handed barber. But as Chung Mung-Hong's debut effort Parking
proves, when one gets double-parked in Taipei, expect the unexpected.
Admittedly quite reminiscent of tried and true art house formulae with its quirky episodic plotting that intertwines the lives of unsuspecting strangers, and drawing often from the cinema of Wong Kar-wai in particular (one chase sequence pays homage to the step-printing aesthetics of Chungking Express), Mung-Hong is nonetheless able to assert a confident and original voice, expertly weaving comedy with dramatic profundity, while commanding strong performances from an already impressive ensemble cast.
Mung-Hong is also for the gorgeous cinematography, peppering episodes with sublimely lit and rather idiosyncratic close ups. A gesture that appears to formally mirror the narrative's emphatic pre-occupation with digressions, consistently delving into even the most peripheral character's personal history. These digressions themselves of course also emphatically point to the main character's own "double-parking" dilemma.
Not all these narrative strands get tied up and it may lead to some frustration from the audience, but such coherence would seem counter-intuitive to Mung-Hong's apparent project. If Wong Kar-wai can be invoked again, it is through Mung-Hong's shared curiosity in the unpredictable intersections of strangers and the results are funny, moving and well worth your time.
Thanks to Evokative Films,
Parking opens in Toronto today at the Yonge and Dundas AMC Theatre. Check out their Facebook
event for more details.
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