Screenshot: Story In Taipei

Bad movies have become big business, but that wasn’t always the case. It took decades of cable repeats and a friggin’ documentary for fans to fully appreciate the transcendence of Troll 2. And, despite what The Disaster Artist might tell you, The Room’s cult fandom unfolded slowly, across multiple years. Now, with those films as guideposts, we as a culture are more attuned to the nuances of the bad movie, waiting with bated breath for each new Neil Breen joint. While we’ve been waiting, a new so-bad-it’s-good classic has emerged on the other side of the world. Called Story In Taipei, Huang Yin-xiong’s pile premiered in just three Taiwanese theaters last year, but subsequently went on to make $5,000,000 in New Taiwan dollars and play for 38 days. That may not sound like a lot, but, as this Popula piece points out, it outperformed the The Great Wall, then the most expensive Chinese film ever made.

Just as Tommy Wiseau sought to make The Room throb “with the passion of Tennessee Williams,” Story In Taipei seeks to tell an ambitiously sprawling story about life in Taipei from the perspective of non-Taipei natives. This sets it in contrast to Edward Yang’s 1985 masterpiece Taipei Story, a well-regarded example of the Taiwanese New Wave that, coincidentally, received a 4K restoration in 2017. Popula posits that the pair make curiously resonant bedfellows:

“In a strange sort of way, then, the film almost seems the perfect counterpoint to the Taiwanese New Wave—masterful, complex depictions of Taipei life from Taipei residents themselves, versus the garbled, incomprehensible, and fantastical depiction of Taipei life from outside the capital, as seen in Story in Taipei.”

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Among its highlights:

  • A dog statue that is, apparently, supposed to be a real dog (?) in the world of the film. Actors treat it as such, and sound effects are added when it barks or growls.
  • Sample dialogue: “I want to travel around the world too! But, as a doctor, I am too busy.”
  • Another: “This no longer a matter of 500,000 NT, this is now a matter of 5,000,000 NT!”
  • In an unconscious nod to The Room, there is a go-nowhere cancer subplot that leads a character to “to travel around the world six times.”
  • The longest shot in the movie lasts one minute and 10 seconds, and it consists of a man awkwardly waving and a camera sloppily panning across the outside of an airport. Watch it below.

Of course, the director is leaning into the controversy. Popula reports that Huang told The Chinese Times that a sequel is on the way, one that will require “100,000 extras.” Hopefully that leaves room for a few more dog statues.

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Watch the trailer below. Yes, it’s in Mandarin, but the cinema transcends language.