Formosa Mambo

IMG_2629Formosa Mambo is a new film written by Wang Chi-tsai which is showing as part of Taiwan Film Days, a festival which runs October 14-16th, 2011 at:

SF Film Society | New People Cinema
1746 Post Street, in San Francisco

This is a Gangster Drama about the making of a demon king. I say this not because there are any big hints of what is unseen in the spirit world of the film. The film is all earthly and secular.  It’s just that the film is difficult to give context to. It is about how a good man becomes bad in a universe of relative badness. Or I could say relative goodness. Everybody knows that the meaning of ethical decisions can change depending on perspective. The film suggests that ethics are driven by a person's social proximity to what ever harm he or she may be triggering (or perpetrating).  Thus we duel within our own tribe, we hunt and ambush outside of our tribe.

One of the attributes of religion is often an attempt to expand a groups' notion of tribe to cover some larger social body or institution; believe in our god, follow our precepts, marry one of us, and you become an insider.   On the other hand, a demon king is someone who expands the group of potential victims, while simultaneously enlarging the boundaries of the in-tribe.  So, if you follow the logic, instead of victimizing Taiwanese who we might know, let's jack up the Mainlanders!

Social networking and computers in general are an intense localizing force, as are things like McDonald's, Whole Foods, and Ikea. This feeds a strong desire for a more authentic local.   A huge number of products are now marketed as “feels local” or “localish.” Even Film festivals are in on this “local flavor for sale” movement.  I mean think about it, we are all so close together these days we are breathing down each others necks!  I have to be careful what I write on my blog lest I offend a German reader living in Taiwan that I’ve never met? Will we all be so socially close some day there will be no one left to cheat?

All of that is just to give context to the film.  No one actually uses the term "demon king," but I believe many people in Taiwan will recognize the idea.

Formosa Mambo is not about dance, but the sound track is pretty catchy.

The film juxtaposes two plots: Desperate, stupid kidnappers who want to be friends with the kid they steal, and a group of sophisticated sexy scammers who steal lots of money from vulnerable people using a combination of high and low tech strategies. The protagonist of the story starts out down on his luck and slowly transforms into a man willing to destroy peoples lives for profit.  Stealing and hurting people in Taiwan turns out to be too much for him because he feels a strong sense of social connection to other Taiwanese.  But low and behold, he realizes that these scams will work just as well on Mainlanders!  Problem solved!  That’s how it ends anyway. It’s a cute little film about a very serious subject in a chaotic cheek by cheek world.
Check it!