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Sumimasen, Love
Sumimasen Love

They're sorry that it's love: Wu Huai-Chung and Chie Tanake in Sumimasen, Love.


Year: 2009  
Director: Lin Yu-Hsien  
  Producer: Roger Huang
  Cast: Chie Tanaka, Wu Huai-Chung
  The Skinny:

This meta-romance starring Taiwan's expat actress du jour Chie Tanaka is light and breezy enough to please, but it lacks the ability to truly connect or convince. At the very least, the film may persuade you to visit Kaohsiung.

by Kozo:

Chie Tanaka fans, unite! You're out there, right? After starring in the Taiwanese blockbuster Cape No. 7, Tanaka has seen a sudden spike in popularity, and The Powers That Be have responded with Sumimasen, Love, a meta-movie starring the Taiwan-based Japanese actress as - what else - a Japanese actress working in Taiwan after landing the lead role in a local film. Can Taiwan's leading expatriate actress recreate that Cape No. 7 romance-by-the-sea magic? They tried, anyway. Director Lin Yu-Hsien (Exit No. 6) gives Sumimasen, Love a lovely and idyllic mood, but can't get his elements to coalesce into something that sings. Beneath the film's gorgeous and breezy romantic surface there doesn't appear to be a whole lot going on. Visiting Kaohsiung seems like a good idea, though.

Experiencing minor job difficulties, model-actress Chie Tanaka (played by, duh, Chie Tanaka) ditches her handlers and heads on a one-day holiday to seaside Kaohsiung. While taking in the local sights, she meets Wu Huai-Chung (actor Wu Huai-Chung you see the pattern here?), who seems more like an unrepentant slacker than the aspiring filmmaker that he claims to be. Huai-Chung first spies Chie from afar and takes to following her, and when she loses her wallet, he swoops in with a NT$500 note and an achingly romantic proposition. He asks that she write her phone number on the bill and spend it, and if the money ever finds its way back to him again, she'll become his girlfriend. His justification for a love connection through currency circulation? Simple: their meeting is fate.

Sumimasen, Love begins decently, with a romantic hook delivered in medias res (i.e., mid-narrative) followed by pleasing sequences of the two characters going about their separate lives. Director Lin and cinematographer Fu Shih-Ying capture Kaohsiung beautifully, the handheld camerawork, strong colors and natural lighting giving the film a playful and free spirited mood. Kaohsiung's local character is well represented alongside its more commercial identity; the characters may stop by shopping malls and an Auntie Anne's pretzel shop, but they also buy street snacks, observe local residents and check out the landmarks. The characters flirt with and tease one another, but there's nary a moment of real tension. Watching the film is like going on vacation without ever leaving your home, except your travel companions are likely prettier than you are.

Chie Tanaka is pretty and photogenic, and her impure Mandarin is fitting for the character, if not that pleasant to listen to. Wu Huai-Chung doesn't fare as well, seeming a few notches below his co-star in both looks and charm though she's playing a film star and he's not. The bigger problem with their pairing is that they strike few sparks. The characters relate minor stories to one another that reveal their loneliness and disaffection, but their connection is barely discernible. Neither creates a truly winning character, with their one overtly romantic moment - a public pantomime involving giving someone your heart - coming off as cloying and false. The very premise of the film may be serendipity and chance, but it's hard to buy that these two people would suddenly decide to spend a whole day together, much less fall in love. Sumimasen, Love could use stronger acting and writing. Something actually happening would help too.

The film does have one major plot thread - that of the NT$500 note, which is quickly spent and yet follows the two characters all around Kaohsiung. Everywhere they go, the bill threatens to return itself to them, reflecting the filmmakers' desired romantic tension. The twists and turns experienced by the money and the would-be lovers are noted, but the big moment where things zigzag, rising and falling between "they will" and "they won't", doesn't really convince. There's an appreciable structure and a winning idea here, and at 77 slight minutes the film seems perfectly poised to become the breezy valentine that the filmmakers desire. But filmmaking can be like alchemy, where a minor miscalculation makes the difference between something sublime and something very ordinary. Sumimasen, Love briefly flirts with the former before noticeably falling short. (Kozo, 2009)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Panorama Entertainment
Mandarin and Japanese Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
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