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Movie review: Island Etude

Island Etude movie poster

Island Etude (練習曲) is a new Taiwanese film directed by En Chen (陳懷恩). It follows the travels of a young man Ming-hsiang, as he travels around Taiwan on his bike.

The story starts out with Ming-hsiang travelling along the east coast which was also the backdrop for  The Road in the Air (單車上路), another movie about cycling released last year which I reviewed here

It is here that the scene and the pattern for the film are set. Ming-hsiang is a determined person and he also has a hearing problem. At times he is withdrawn from the activity around him and in his own space. However, he is frequently drawn into interactions with various people along the way. Ming-hsiang's sensitivity to the people he meets and the sometimes overwhelming friendliness shown toward him by others make the film very moving. 

The style of the film blurs the line with documentary. Whatever flaws there may be in the production, they are made up for by the wonderful way the island of Formosa and its people are shown. Although there are scenes that take in some spectacular scenery, these do not overwhelm the characters in the film. 

I thought this movie was very special for the exuberant way it captured the spirit of Taiwan. Highly recommended. 

Please note: The version I saw had no English subtitles.  


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File next to:
2007 at the movies
Learning to fly
Lust, Caution cut from the Oscars
2009 Taipei Film Festival
Some books about Taiwan


Pingback from David on Formosa » Cycling: from the marginal to the mainstream
Time 10 June 2007 at 9:17 pm

[...] Two movies about cycling have been made in Taiwan in the past year: Island Etude and The Road in the Air. One might be cynical about the motivations for Ma Ying-jeou's bike ride from the southern to the northern end of Taiwan, but it shows cycling is something that resonates with the public. [...]

Pingback from David on Formosa » Lust, Caution cut from the Oscars
Time 19 October 2007 at 11:25 pm

[...] disappointing that Ang Lee misses out on the chance to win another Oscar. Taiwan has now nominated Island Etude for the Academy [...]

Comment from David Mayes
Time 26 November 2007 at 5:40 pm

This film is an exceptional piece of poetry on the human spirit. The maintream public could benefit from watching– the bicycle is somewhat incidental to the message of the film.

Pingback from They are Flying (飛行少年) – documentary review – David on Formosa
Time 25 June 2008 at 3:38 pm

[...] Island Etude it highlights some of Taiwan's beautiful scenery in the journey around the island. However, the [...]