Tsai Pojie, MA, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
Cape No. 7, director Wei Te-sheng’s first full-length film, debuted in 2008. The picture starred both Taiwanese and Japanese actors, the dialogue a mixture of Mandarin, Japanese, and Taiwanese (Holo). Straightforward and unpretentious, the movie portrays the lives of ordinary folk in a colorful local setting.
A-Ka, the leading character, has been trying to make it as a musician and singer in Taipei. One day, disgusted with his lack of success, he smashes his electric guitar, climbs on his smoke-belching motorcycle and dispiritedly returns to his hometown of Hengchun, located on Taiwan’s southernmost tip. A-Ka finds temporary work as a mailman, but scorns Hengchun’s insularity, feeling that neither he nor the town have much going for them. Halfheartedly carrying out his postal duties, he attempts to deliver a packet of letters from Japan to “Cape No. 7,” but failing to locate the address he tosses the mail in a corner of his room and forgets about it.
When a Hengchun area resort puts out a call for local musicians to perform in a beach concert, A-Ka forms a ragtag combo with guitarist Rauma, an aborigine policeman; drummer Frog, a mechanic; bassist Malasun, a millet-wine salesman; and Dada, a 10 year-old keyboardist; the group also includes Old Mao, a “national treasure,” who plays the yueqin, a traditional string instrument. Initially, the band’s lack of cohesion and incompatibility frustrates Tomoko, a young Japanese woman who is handling public relations for the concert. But the music gradually comes together and A-Ka and Tomoko begin a romance. His enthusiasm restored, with Tomoko’s help A-Ka finally locates the letters’ addressee: an old woman living in Hengchun. In her youth the woman had been in love with a Japanese teacher who was forced to leave Taiwan when WWII ended sixty years earlier. In Japan the teacher sent love letters to his Taiwanese sweetheart, but the missives were always returned undelivered because of postwar changes in Taiwan’s address system. After he passed away, the teacher’s daughter found the letters among his effects and forwarded them to Taiwan, where they finally reached the now elderly woman. In the end A-Ka and his band put on a stellar show at the beachfront concert, performing “Southland,” a ballad that embodies A-Ka and Tomoko’s love for each other.
Cape No. 7 is a romance with a touch of fantasy, but within the simple story Wei Te-sheng inserts elements of Taiwan’s colonial history and raises serious questions about localization vs. internationalization. The Japanese teacher and his Taiwanese girlfriend fell in love during the colonial era, but their affections were buried when colonialism ended; sixty years later, a joint Taiwanese-Japanese concert gives historical weight to a modern international romance. Wei Te-sheng imbues the film with local imagery, past and present, but also asks viewers to consider the real implications of local development policies – a community’s true vitality, Wei tells audiences, is not only manifested in the hosting of an international event, but is also grounded in the daily lives of the people, the local patois, and the history that informs a place.
|Related Literary Themes：||Nativist Literature|