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Ming yun hua zhuang shi | Yi-chi Lien, 2011
Taiwan | 107 minutes
North American Premiere!
Like Shinya Tsukamoto’s Vital, this is a love story that starts on the mortician’s slab, with the corpse of one lover transformed into an open book of the body that chronicles their romance. Quiet, introverted mortuary cosmetician Min-Hsiu (Nikki Hsieh) floats through her life and her job at a funeral home even more like a ghost than the corpses she carefully paints and powders into a semblance of life. She has found peace working amongst the dead, a peace that she has difficulty finding with the living. This strange equilibrium is disrupted when she receives the body of her high school music teacher, Chen Ting (Sonia Sui), listed on the death report as a suicide. The film gradually reveals her relationship with the deceased to be the deepest and most important of her adolescence, and it leaves her with one anguished question: how did the love of her life wind up committing suicide?
A tense confrontation with Detective Kuo Yung-ming (Ray Chang) alerts Min-Hsiu that the circumstances of Chen Ting’s death might not be as clear-cut as reported, and as he pulls her into his angry, unruly murder investigation, it stirs up a flood of haunting memories of her time with Ting: early friendship, falling in love, and the sad circumstances of their break up. Aided by remarkably strong performances from Nikki Hsieh, Sonia Sui, and Nikki Hsieh’s high school-aged counterpart, emerging director Lien Yi-chi, who worked on Wei Te-sheng’s groundbreaking Cape No. 7 (2008) as an assistant director, delivers a moving, beautifully photographed film that at its core has more to say about the tenderness of the human heart than the fragility of the human body.