Monday, May 14, 2012

Cape No. 7 Review (2008)

Drama Rating: *****
Personal Rating: All time favourite!!

Cape No. 7 (海角七號) tells of Aga, a rock band singer and newly-assigned town postman, who is given a chance to perform when Japanese singer Kousuke Atari is invited to a performance in at a beach resort/hotel in his town. An assistant from Atari's company, Tomoko, is tasked with managing the ragtag group of local musicians put together by the Aga's stepfather Town Representative Hong for the show. In the meantime, Aga comes across a set of love letters sent around WWII in the 1940s. How will the concert turn out and how will Aga manage to find the owner of the letters?

*Spoiler warning*

This movie definitely had one of the best stories I have seen. The directing and screenwriting for this drama was superb, beautifully introducing all of the key characters with ease and subtly incorporating cultural and environmental elements of southern Taiwan in an effortless but amusing way. The storytelling was wonderfully done, easing the audience into the main story while weaving in a touching, background love story.

The characters were superbly introduced and fully took advantage of all the oddities and peculiarities of each individual character. Van Fan plays the enigmatic Aga, leader of the band and replacement postman for the town. While his performance may not have been phenomenal, it wasn't really necessary given the focus was on the entire group rather than one individual. Chie Tanaka gave a solid performance as the convincingly frustrated visiting Japanese agent tasked with organizing the local band. 'National Treasure' Old Mao was easily one of the most hilarious characters with his lovably stubborn ways. Malasun, the persistent alcohol salesman, added a fresh dimension of optimism to the story while Rauma, Dada, Frog and Representative Hong rounded out the close-knit group to give a comfortable small-town feel to the movie.

The music was definitely one of the key draws of this movie and the movie's main theme songs 國境之南,無樂不作 and Heidenröslein were ideally suited for this drama given the nostalgic feel throughout. The incorporation of Old Mao's yueqin and tambourine was the source of much hilarity throughout the movie although the mix of instruments and effects surprisingly added much depth and flavor to the later performances. The unexpected build-up to the final concert was gorgeously done, given the ragtag group and their rather questionable practices. Without giving away too much, I'll just end by saying that the concert was definitely one of the most memorable TV or movie moments ever and one that I'll certainly never forget.

I've generally avoided Taiwanese dramas due to their inexplicable lack of seriousness but Taiwanese movies seem to be a different genre entirely, often showing off an artistic flair rarely seen in their drama counterparts. A friend had recommended Cape No. 7 to me a while back and I really wish I hadn't waited this long before watching it because it was definitely a gem among the numerous movies I've watched. The story maintains a very understated tone throughout, never once flashy or pretending to be more than what it was. Its delightful simplicity and realism draws you into a different world as you get to know each of the characters, their quirks and mannerisms. Without question, this movie ranks among the top movies I've seen and unquestionably as one of my favorites!

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