Directed by Chienn Hsiang
Best Narrative Feature and Best Actress, 2014 Taipei Film Festival
Official Selection, 2014 Locarno Film Festival
Official Selection, 2014 Vancouver International Film Festival
Official Selection, 2014 Busan International Film Festival
At some point in Chienn Hsiang’s debut EXIT, the luminous Chen Shiang-chyi is poised between two hospital beds: one with her failing mother in-law, the other with a blinded stranger flinging guttural squawks and frustrated pounding. It’s a startling moment, one in which care moves into desire, and it’s electric.
Chen plays Ling, a Kaohsiung garment worker in her 40s, who observes the textures of daily life utterly alone – a sticky door, peeling wallpaper, sleeping patients – with hot flashes and aging on the horizon. Ling has been passively marooned by a sassy daughter who avoids her, a radio-silent husband working in Shanghai, a world of coworkers who disappear when the factory moves to China. It’s a sociological rather than pathological isolation, a slow burn built by an accumulation of familiar, modern conditions. So familiar that Ling’s subterranean panic barely registers, even to herself.
EXIT is filled with gorgeous long shots of Taiwan’s fading infrastructure and moments of strange life. Ballroom home videos. Repurposed sanitary pads. Hospital transgressions. Unlike Tsai Ming Liang’s simmering near-absurdity, EXIT’s small unfoldings capture the sensation of pursuing irrational threads against all reason with only instinct providing a motor. Inklings, which when pursued, take us to a deep hole, inside which might lie an alternate universe of feeling.
Chen makes EXIT utterly hers. Tender, delicate, disoriented, Chen gives us layers of illegible urges nudging against numbness, a woman observing her own life running dry and mutely making the smallest of adjustments toward some sort of release. A veteran of Tsai’s and Edward Yang’s films, Chen proves again she is a gem, long overdue for a full international embrace. –Christina Ree
Cast: Chen Shiang-chyi, Easton Dong, Pai Ming-hua