Specialty film festivals can pop up in the most unlikely of places. While the the film community thinks of Dallas as a poor second cousin to Austin (not without good reason), local residents, including myself, treasure and champion the events that bring diversity to a movie-going scene too often dominated by Hollywood product. And so Friday night was a mob scene in the lobby of Landmark's Magnolia Theater as the Asian Film Festival of Dallas opened its ninth edition.
Now, to be fair, the Magnolia is often jammed up on a weekend night: the lobby is small! Yet I'm told that the official opening night film, Arvin Chen's Au Revoir Taipei, filled the room; a very decent crowd (myself included) then filed in to witness Wong Jing's I Corrupt All Cops (the best title of the year), and the midnight showing of Japanese splatter pic Robogeisha sold out, prompting management to add another theater to accommodate the overflow. (Check this revealing photo gallery from the film's screening at Fantasic Fest.)
Au Revoir Taipei is typical of foreign-language films that don't get distribution in the U.S. It's sweet, romantic, and quite commercial in nature, yet it doesn't feature any known stars and lacks an easily marketable angle. At the same time, it's the kind of audience-friendly fare that's often snubbed at the larger film festivals. Kai (Jack Yao) is learning French so he can go to Paris and reclaim his girlfriend. His unorthodox method is to study while sitting on the floor of a bookstore night after night. That gets the attention of Susie (Amber Kuo), a store clerk, but Kai ignores her until a fateful night when he's on a mission to deliver a package for Brother Bao (Frankie Kao).