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New Release Review - EXIT (DVD)

A lonely Taiwanese woman forms a one-way bond with a male hospital patient.


Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Hsiang Chienn

Starring: Shiang-chyi Chen, Ming-hsiang Tung, Ming Hwa Bai



"Chen gives a committed performance, and certainly generates sympathy, but the hysterical, menopausal heroine is becoming something of an arthouse cliché."



The theme of urban alienation has proven fertile ground for filmmakers as disparate as Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver) and Chantal Akerman (Jeanne Dielman). They say you're never more alone than when in a crowd, and the protagonist of cinematographer Hsiang Chienn's directorial debut finds herself set emotionally adrift among the huddled masses of Taipei's throng.
45-year-old Ling-tzu (Shiang-chyi Chen) is having a rough old time, to say the least. Her husband is working abroad in China and refuses to answer her phone calls, as does her dead-eyed teenage daughter. She finds herself diagnosed with early on-set menopause. To top it all off she's just been made redundant from her sewing job in a factory that resembles a barely legitimate sweat shop. And then there's that bloody front door of her apartment, which has a nasty habit of jamming. Even the wallpaper seems to mock her, one troublesome corner peeling despite her best efforts to tape it up.
While visiting her elderly mother in-law in hospital, Ling-tzu becomes enthralled with the male patient across the room, his eyes bandaged, the power of speech eluding him. Feeling pity, she begins to nurse him, but her care takes on a sensual approach, her hands spending a little too much time on his chest. Unable to express himself, we're unsure whether he feels comforted or violated; his groans are ambiguous. When the bandages come off, Ling-tzu retreats back into her shell, terrified of his reaction.
Exit's harsh digital aesthetic and natural lighting is offset by some impressive compositions, with Hsiang framing his heroine in a claustrophobic manner, creating discomfort by holding shots to a point bordering on unwilling voyeurism. Accusations of misery porn are difficult to fend off however, and there is something cynical about Hsiang's treatment of Ling-tzu, a fly trapped in a child's matchbox. Chen gives a committed performance, and certainly generates sympathy, but the hysterical, menopausal heroine is becoming something of an arthouse cliché.



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