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Meeting Dr. Sun
Meeting Dr. Sun

The student thieves of Meeting Dr. Sun.



Year: 2014  
Director: Yee Chih-Yen
Producer: Yee Chih-Yen, Lee Lieh, Roger Huang

Yee Chih-Yen


Chan Huai-Yun, Matthew Wei, Joseph Chang, Gina Li, Bryan Chang Shu-Hao, Honduras, Yang Shu-Chun, River Huang, Hu Wei-Chieh, Wang Yu-Cheng, Sean Shih, Ryan Tsai, Yuan Chia-Le, Kao Cheng-Tan, Yang Yi-Chen, Chen Po-Ting, Hsu Chih-Tang, Chang Feng-Feng

The Skinny: Dry, dumb heist comedy with a startling rich and relevant metaphor beneath all the droll silliness. Director Yee Chih-Yen’s first full-length film since the neo-classic Blue Gate Crossing over a decade ago.
by Kozo:
Director Yee Chih-Yen’s last full-length feature was the neo-classic Blue Gate Crossing back in 2002, so the release of his new film Meeting Dr. Sun is cause for minor celebration. At first glance, the actual content of the film offers less to celebrate, as it covers previous Yee territory (i.e., it takes place in high school) and offers a ridiculous premise. High school student Lefty (Chai Huai-Yun) is too poor to pay his school fees, so he decides to steal a metal statue of Sun Yat-Sen stowed in a school storage room and sell it as scrap. Along with three friends, Lefty plots the heist but runs into a snag: He discovers a notebook detailing a plan to steal the exact same Sun Yat-Sen statue. Lefty eventually discovers the identity of his competitor in statue thievery, fellow student Sky (Matthew Wei), and makes contact. There’s potential for friendship between the two, but a “stealing Sun Yat-Sen showdown” is imminent. Which of these two poor kids will liberate the replica of China’s founding father from its dusty storage room fate?

Meeting Dr. Sun is an exceptionally dry heist comedy, with laughs that are so deadpan that you almost have to do a double take before you giggle. Using repeated dialogue, obtuse characters and intentionally awkward performances, Yee Chih-Yen offers a clinic on droll absurdity that should tickle anyone who likes this type of humor. That said, there are people who don’t dig dry comedy, especially when it’s attached to such prosaic-seeming messages. Meeting Dr. Sun offers simple and easily-discerned platitudes on friendship and cooperation, while avoiding the type of warm humanism that makes Japanese dry comedies so charming and relatable. It’s easy to like Lefty and company because they seem innocent and dopey – even when they’re planning on committing a crime – but the film doesn’t delve deeply enough into their lives or personalities to make them compelling characters. Also, the film’s discussion of poverty – at one point, Lefty and Sky compare household incomes – seems superficial. Likewise the heist plan never seems credible and too many scenes play like quirk for quirk’s sake. This is a fun idea, but it’s also painfully thin.

Still, the film’s lightness and simplicity don’t stop it from being entertaining; the absurdity and droll chuckles come slowly but surely, and the characters never stray from being endearing doofuses. When the credits roll, it’s easy to see this as just a dumb film about kids learning to do the right thing. However, that reading is deceptive. Beneath the silly premise there’s a rich metaphor representing much more than dopey students engaging in a ridiculously-planned theft. The statue of Sun Yat-Sen is key; its status as a dusty object in storage is not just an attempt at topical laughs. Various statues of Sun have been removed from schools and public areas by Taiwan independence activists as a means of further separating Taiwan from its China roots. In a sense, many Taiwan citizens have “forgotten” about Sun Yat-Sen, even though he’s the father of modern China, encompassing the mainland Communists, Taiwan’s ruling Kuomintang and the newer democratic parties pushing Taiwan independence. Sun Yat-Sen is the father, and right now his children clearly don’t get along.

Reading it this way, the film becomes about accord between opposing groups of Chinese – if not between Taiwan and the mainland (it’s conspicuous that one kid is named “Lefty”), then between Taiwan’s bickering political factions. Besides the fact that stealing the statue involves “freeing” Sun Yat-Sen, the discussion of poverty runs similar to common political rhetoric. The kids compare who’s suffered the most and who should be entitled to the statue. One kid says it’s him, another says it’s him, and before long they’re duking it out ineffectually at the feet of the statue, the father watching his children as they comically come to terms with, well, each other. When the kids finally settle their differences, it speaks to far more than “boys getting along” – it represents the realization of shared experience, the rediscovery of an identity, and a hope for a better tomorrow. Meeting Dr. Sun may have a shallow story but its subtext is rich, thoughtful and surprisingly accomplished. Not bad for a movie that, at first glance, seems so very dumb. (Kozo, 11/2014)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Edko Films Ltd. (HK)
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Mandarin Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
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