Thursday, March 19, 2009

From the annals of absurdity: The Cape No. 7 Tour

When the movie Titanic came out in 1997, throngs of teenage (and adult) girls flocked to theaters to watch the ill-fated romance of Jack and Rose. To call it fanaticism would be an understatement. When I finally saw it 2 or 3 months after its release, the theater was so crowded I ended up sitting in the aisle surrounded by sobbing adolescents who recited every line with the movie. It was impossible to go anywhere (even to sleep) without hearing Celine Dion's biggest hit ever, "My Heart Will Go On." I never thought I'd witness anything like Titanic-mania again.

11 years later, however, I find myself in the midst of another pop culture phenomenon: Cape No. 7, the total body experience. Cape No. 7 is a Taiwanese movie that combines the three things Taiwanese people love most: love stories, pop music, and discussions of national identity. The plot involves two story lines--one between a Japanese man and a Taiwanese woman at the end of the Japanese colonization period, and a present-day love story between a Taiwanese postman and a Japanese concert organizer. Both take place in Hengchun Township, a provincial, beachy area at the southermost part of the island.

The local response to this movie has been nothing short of fanaticism. I have co-workers who have seen it at least four times. Earlier this year, the local news reported that the Hengchun County Post Office received thousands of love letters from movie fans sent to the fabled address, Cape No. 7. Discussing the movie is the equivalent of talking about food or the weather. Everyone likes it, no one argues, we all save face and go home happy. Singing either of the hit songs from the movie (if you're a foreigner, that is) is a guaranteed, no-fail recipe for making Taiwanese friends, especially if you sing it at a KTV (that's Karaoke TV, pan- Asia's favorite weekend hangout.)

Recipe for instant friendship with the southern Taiwanese population

Hengchun Township has tried (successfully) to capitalize on Cape No. 7 Fantacism by putting together a Cape No. 7 Tour, where crazed Taiwanese people of all ages drive around Hengchun taking photos at all the sites where the movie was filmed. Hengchun looks exactly like any other provincial area of Taiwan, except with a nicer beach. Just like everywhere else that's not Taipei or Kaohsiung, there are weather-worn houses, stray dogs, lots of scooters and the faint-but-ubiquitous stench of fish. Yet, in spite of its ordinariness, people flocked to Hengchun to take photos of themselves at what appear to be the most mundane sites on the island including but not limited to 7/11, a random house where the main character lived or a shabby old alley. All the postmen trying to deliver mail got mobbed by tourists demanding to get a photo with themselves and a real Hengchun postman.

The following slideshow is from my fellow Fulbrighter Billy and I's trip to Hengchun with his host family and a few of my co-workers. Do you see the mobs of teenagers? Do you understand why they're so excited? Do you see why I'm confused?


Amy Chang said...

hahahaha I loved this entry so, so much

The Chao said...

omg Chang, have you seen the movie?