Goings On

The Wide, Wide Range of Sylvia Chang

In a career spanning more than four decades, Taiwanese actress, filmmaker, playwright, and singer Sylvia Chang has directed fifteen films and appeared in over ninety, working with the likes of King Hu, Edward Yang, Tsui Hark, Ann Hui, Johnnie To, Stanley Kwan, Ang Lee, Jia Zhangke, and most recently, with Bi Gan, on Long Day’s Journey Into Night, a critical favorite at the just-wrapped Cannes Film Festival. It’s too soon, of course, for Journey to be included in the series of fifteen films starring or directed by Chang currently running through Sunday at New York’s Metrograph, but the sheer variety of the program is remarkable, emphasizing the range of her many talents. As Sean Gilman points out in the Notebook, Chang has “played waifish ingenues and hard-nosed career women, exasperated mothers, bohemian artists, bourgeois matrons and ass-kicking cops. As a director, she’s brought special focus to women’s changing roles in domestic and family melodramas, creating sophisticated works that straddle the line between mainstream and art house.”

Tomorrow sees a screening of Chang’s 2015 feature Murmur of the Hearts in which an estranged brother and sister find their way back to each other as they share memories of the fairy tales their mother told them. Writing for Cinema Scope, Shelly Kraicer finds that the “gorgeous cinematography” by Ming-Kai Leung “and lush soundscape create a palpably beautiful environment of nostalgia, longing, and mystery where past, present, fantasy and reality mingle to impressive effect.”

A highlight on Saturday will be King Hu’s Legend of the Mountain (1979), a ghostly mystery adapted from a Song Dynasty folk tale. King “knew exactly what he wanted and he would not compromise,” says Chang, recalling the year-long shoot in South Korea in Daniel Eagan’s interview with her for Film Comment. “But he was not very difficult on the set because he allowed us to do the acting, he allowed us to give.”

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