Story: Kai (Jack Yao) has to see off his girlfriend who goes to Paris. When she is gone he continuously leaves messages for her, but she
doesn't answer his calls. Eventually, he even heads to a bookstore and learns French. Since he goes there every day he runs into clerk Susie (Amber Kuo)
who secretly has fallen in love with him. Kai doesn't realize it, though, and after his girlfriend has broken up with him on the phone he is looking for a
way to get to Paris in order to sort things out with his girlfriend. Mob boss Bao (Frankie Gao), who is a regular at the restaurant of Kai's
parents, is willing to help him. However, in return Kai needs to fetch a packet and take it with him to Paris. Police detective Jiyong (Joseph Chang) is
already shadowing the packet, though, and only waits for someone to show up for him to finally get arrested. Not being aware of all those circumstances Kai
eventually holds the packet in his hands, which doesn't just make him the target of the police, but also that of Hong (Lawrence Ko), the nephew of the mob boss,
who along with his small gang wants to rise in the ranks of the organisation. By accident, not only Kai's best friend Gao (Paul Chiang), but Susie as well get
in the gangsters' line of fire.
Review: To get absorbed by "Au Revoir Taipei" is very easy. The gaudy neon-colored setting bestows the kind of buoyancy and warmth on the
charmingly presented love story, which is imbedded in a small gangster story around a mysterious packet, that most real romantic movies lack. The movie
particularly excels in avoiding any clichés. And it surely is no coincidence that we get to see a soap opera on tv on several occasions, making mob boss Bao
state during one of the dramatic moments "I don't buy it" while the police detective, nicely played by Joseph Chang ("Wild City"),
even starts to laugh inappropriately. Yes, it is possible to tell a love story without being unintentionally funny. "Au Revoir Taipei" is proof of that while
also standing as a declaration of love for the Taiwanese capital city.
In some way this also an ensemble piece, though. The different characters are introduced to us and then the at times absurd, but always very skillfully
interwoven story threads start to unfold before us. And it has to be noted that the weight is very equally distributed among the different stories. The
main plot may get most of the time on screen, but you never get the feeling that the subplots tear it apart. On the contrary, they even add something to it,
since they revisit certain main themes or even mirror them. It's also impressive how well the pacing is made use of. Oftentimes, we get the impression of
taking a stroll through Taipei's streets while leasurely absorbing Taiwanese culture, but the pacing can shift up a gear, too. Thus, there is never any
boredom creeping in. Seldomly you get a script that is so well balanced.
Right from the start, when the different pieces of the puzzle have been spread before us, it is absolutely obvious which direction the story is supposed
to head and what kind of connection Kai will have to the gangsters. Yet, you can't claim that the rest is predictable as well. In fact, there are quite a
few nice surprises next to numerous chance happenings that underline the subtle humor of the movie. However, the characters are the true driving force
of the story. Less important individuals also have enough personality to make the film more colorful. Even the gang whose members run around in orange
suits or stare into the camera sitting in their purple car listening to electro music and treating us with one or two funny dialogues manages to be memorable.
Accordingly, the somewhat odd figures make Taipei come to wonderful life.
Apart from that it is also the city itself that makes you feel life in all its shapes. The various cookshops, the many neon signs, the love hotels, all of that
creates some sort of wanderlust. Taipei surely is shown from its best side. The cinematography truely is wonderful and the high artistic value of the pictures
even reminds us of Wong Kar-Wai at times or art house filme like "Help Me Eros", whereas there are clear parallels to the latter
when looking at the coloring. Only that Arvin Chen makes his colors warmer and softer in a way. That Chen is an artist when it comes to pictures probably
also made Wim Wenders coproduce the movie. Still, the lighthearted nature of this genre mix, which is located somewhere between romantic movie, comedy and
thriller, is never lost sight of.
The bouncy soundtrack by Hsu Wen also adds a lot to the lightness of the flick. Besides the great locations it's more than anything else the very well crafted screenplay that always manages to push the right buttons. While Taiwanese directors like Tsai Ming-liang in "Help Me, Eros" or "The Wayward Cloud" paint love and loneliness in the big city in quite some dreary colors Arvin Chen portrays life with a more hopeful approach. You will find love in almost all of the stories, but even as a main theme it never pushes too much to the foreground, but also leaves enough room for the thriller elements and the comedic aspects as well. The subtle humor always manages to score when you least expect it and the love story is so convincing in the end that you get a fuzzy feeling in your stomach without having to feel ashamed because of it. Why can't all romantic flicks be like that?