Entertainment behind the scenes
About the only thing Taiwanese in Yann Martel’s cultish epic novel “Life of Pi” is the captain of the ship that sinks, yet celebrated director Ang Lee has chosen Taiwan as the place to make a 3D film version of the award-winning book.
Much like the novel’s hero, a boy named Pi, Taiwan has something of a second chance at making itself shine after years of diplomatic isolation that has kept its global economic competitiveness clinging to a life vest. It gets that chance when audiences see the movie, now scheduled for release in 2012. But Taiwan has a long way to go as China has stolen its spotlight with a rapid economic ascent since the 1990s. For long-standing political reasons, Beijing actively squelches its offshore neighbor’s international profile.
In the book, a freighter taking Indian boy Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel, his family and a zoo of wild animals sinks while steaming from India across the Pacific Ocean to North America. Pi is left stranded on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger. He and the tiger survive 227 days at sea despite a natural distrust of each other as the boy gives the animal its space along with a sense of who’s boss.
About three quarters of the film will be shot on the beaches of Taiwan’s south coast and at a new studio fashioned from an old airport in the central Taiwan city Taichung, a publicist for 20th Century Fox Taiwan said. The other 25 percent takes place in India, and 17-year-old Indian-born actor Suraj Sharma, who was chosen from 3,000 applicants, will play Pi.
What to do with a giant 650-year-old landscape scroll literally divided between rivals China and Taiwan? That question is painting a knotty picture for the government-backed museums that hold pieces of the scroll. Taking advantage of a recent political detente between the two, museum officials in Taiwan and China suddenly want to link up the full Yuan Dynasty scroll “Dwelling in the Fu Chun Mountains”.
China, keen to impress Taiwan on its long march to unify with it politically, has said it would let the island’s National Palace Museum show a share of the scroll stored now at a provincial museum near Shanghai, but Taiwan has replied that it would not reciprocate unless China changed laws to ensure it would not seize the palace museum’s share on grounds of rightful ownership.
Taiwan’s government, run by the old-guard Nationalist Party, has turned a bit more youthful in recent days, using rap music to head off fears at home that it may sell out to political rival Beijing during tense talks this week. (Click here for more about the talks).
“The Republic of China (Taiwan) is a sovereign independent nation,” the fast-paced, video-enhanced lyrics begin. “Twenty-three million citizens will decide its fate.”
Working-class folk who grew up with ad hoc, grab-a-mike-and-sing entertainment at the temple entrances and sultry night markets of industrial southern Taiwan found a hero in a local guy with an odd-shaped haircut and a gift for comedy skits about sex. Chu Ge Liang went on to become a home video sensation before cable TV, cheering up the haggard south by speaking the region’s animated dialect and taking swipes at more mainstream Taiwan performers who would talk the official, but less intimate, Mandarin Chinese and weren’t very funny.
Like American radio “shock jock” Howard Stern, he would invite women to his shows – at their own risk. A run of films followed. The 62-year-old star’s real name is Hsieh Hsin-ta, but he is best known as “Chu Ge Liang,” which roughly translates to he’s horny.