Taipei teenager Chih-chiang does not do well in school, and is a day dreamer. He witnesses the kidnapping of a little boy by accident. After being discovered, he is also kidnapped. One of the kidnappers is a former cop. Yet the former cop dies suddenly in a car crash. Helpless and awkward, the remai...(Read more)
Taipei teenager Chih-chiang does not do well in school, and is a day dreamer. He witnesses the kidnapping of a little boy by accident. After being discovered, he is also kidnapped. One of the kidnappers is a former cop. Yet the former cop dies suddenly in a car crash. Helpless and awkward, the remaining kidnapper decides to take the two hostages to his hometown Dongshih, a fishing village in Chiayi County. He hides the hostages in his home with his big extended family. When news about the kidnapping appears on TV, the kidnapper’s family knows that Chih-chiang is actually taking the High School Entrance Exam that is only ten days away. Out of a sense of guilt, the family does their best to help Chih-chiang study while keeping him as a hostage. They even buy textbooks, reference books, and the like for Chih-chiang, urge Chih-chiang to study hard, and even take him to go fishing and scuba-diving so that he can relax. To Chih-chiang, this incident becomes an unusual adventure, and one that is very relaxing, just like a refreshing vacation. Most importantly, it has become an initiation journey full of unusual inspiration.
Chen Yu-Hsun is skilled in “comedy of local folks.” His popular drama is full of black humor, fantasies, features of Taiwanese culture, and realistic rendering of common people. Tropical Fish was his first feature film and immediately gained critical attention. It is a light and bright comedy—which is a break from the stylish and sober tradition of Taiwan New Cinema. Yet the film still inherits its spirit of humanism and engages in social critiques. One of the social issues addressed in the film is the Education Reform Movement of the late 1980s, a social movement criticizing Taiwan’s suffocating and burdensome school entrance exams. The issue of class difference is highlighted in the film as well. For example, the girl in the fishing family is envious of the pressure—that is, the demanding exam—that Chih-chiang “enjoys.” As an underclass girl, she was forced to quit school and work in a factory, where she was raped. Although the school entrance exam in Taiwan distorted education, it nonetheless still provided people of the lower class with a chance to climb the social ladder. That is also why the kidnaper’s family regards Chih-chiang’s exam so highly, even to the point of taking care of him during his exam preparations (even though Chih-chiang is their hostage). Many contemporary social issues in Taiwan can thus be found in this “sugar-coated comedy,” including class conflict, the “country/city divide,” the “North/South divide,” the linguistic hegemony of Mandarin Chinese over the Taiwanese language, and finally, gender inequality in a patriarchal society. Although major scenes in this film are realistic portrayals of coastal landscape, in the last shot of the film, the cityscape of Taipei is presented in a surrealist manner. A giant CGI tropical fish is shown swimming among the skyscrapers. It then swims into the distant sky. This very last scene of the film symbolizes redemption for the three teenagers in the film and represents director ChenYu-Hsun’s belief that one should dare to dream and then work to make his dreams come true.
DVD source：Taiwan Cinema Toolkit, Ministry of Culture, R.O.C.
|Producer：||HUANG Li-Ming, HSU Li-Kong, WANG Shaudi|
|Actors：||LIN Jia-Hung, WEN Ying, LIN Cheng-Sheng, LIEN Pi-tung, HSI Ching-Lun|
|Editor：||CHEN Sheng-Chang, LEI Chen-Ching|
|Excluded for public screenings：||Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Macau, Japan|
Theroyalty period of this film has expired. Taiwan Cinema Toolkit could no longer authorizescreenings.
Central Motion Picture Corporation
1995 Locarno Film Festival, Blue Leopard Award and FIPRESCI Award
1995 Montpellier Film Festival, Golden Panda Award (Best Film)
1995 Golden Horse Awards, Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress