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Taipei Exchanges (2010) @ 第36個故事

A junkyard cafe. That's Taipei Exchanges for ya.

At a glance:
Here's one of those dreamy Taiwanese movies I saw in Singapore a couple of years ago. Reportedly backed by the Taipei's tourism authorities, TV ad director Hsiao Ya Chuan's Taipei Exchanges a.k.a. 第36個故事 is a PG-rated fairy-tale approach to the troubled region's political projections on capitalism. If Au Revoir Taipei is exotic, then Taipei Exchanges is definitely quaint. In a movie where almost all if not most of the action (or rather inaction) unfolds in a cafe just like Kamome Diner (2006), we follow Doris (Kwai Lun Mei, Secret, 2007), an office girl who quits her job to start a cafe but finds the place turnin into a junkyard business due to elaborate exchange-only arrangements that serendipitously happen. Her slacker of a sister Josie (Lin Zai Zai) plays no small part in this barter bizarro, which somehow turns the place into a buzzin pitstop of peculiar camaraderie. There's also some romantic subplots mixed into the theme, like a man (Chang Han) who wants to trade bars of soap.
Bad news on the doorstep:
What the fuck are we gonna do with this place?
The gastronomic appeal of Taipei Exchanges starts wearing thin somewhere midway and the sisters' laments turn tiresome quickly, although they may not be trivial. The crux of the story is the interplay between the sisters (maybe even their disapprovin mother) and their conflictin values but this projection is far too weak and too cute to capture an audience that demands deeper drama.
Reminds me of:
Small cafes like Wondermilk in Uptown Damansara.
Amacam joker, berapa bintang lu mau kasi?
It's a pretty picture alright - but the dreamy approach might just have been a tad too detached and loses us at the end. A recommended watch only for viewers who enjoyed Look For A Star (2009) more than A Place Of One's Own (2009).



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