Skip to main content

THE PERSONALS

Taiwan, 1998 (MIFF 1999, Regional Features)

Director: Chen Kuo-Fu

The Personals is a cleverly constructed, ironic comedy of manners that's exceptionally accessible to western audiences without compromising its identity. A sleeper hit at Cannes 1999, the film involves Wu, a pret­ty but far from glamourous woman in her early 30s. A comfortably off professional—a successful ophthalmol­ogist in a prestigious hospital—Wu feels her youth slip­ping away. She has received over 100 responses to an advertisement she placed for a husband, but deliberately hasn't asked the applicants to send a photo. Each meeting therefore starts off at ground zero for both sides.

The Personals is largely comprised of Wu's various rendezvous (mostly at a quiet, traditional teahouse in the Taipei suburbs) with different suitors. Characters are introduced with a caption stating their name, age and occupation. They range across the spectrum, standing not only for sexual or behavioural types but crystallising the mix of traditional and modern Chinese values in con­temporary Taiwanese society.

Separated by sequences of Wu at work, confiding in a male friend or to her diary, what seems like a con­ventional structure is knocked for a loop by a script wild­card. Aside from the terrific performances, the film's main pleasure is in its dialogue. The Personals exhibits a delight in the grace notes of language and hidden meanings, the actors visibly relish their lines. A lustrous movie, precision-tooled by an emerging talent.

See also...

A BEAUTIFUL NEW WORLD

Bao Gun is a simple country boy whose dreams come true. He wins a contest in his small town, the prize being a deluxe apartment in a sumptuous, new Shanghai high-rise. Armed only with a single ... More »

APRIL STORY

Uzuki Nireno bids farewell to her family and relocates to Tokyo to attend University. As the film progresses at a gentle pace, it becomes evident that the long-haired boy at the local bookstore has ... More »

FLOWERS OF SHANGHAI

After a masterful series of films about the history of Taiwan, Hou Hsiao-hsien turns his gaze to a fascinating saga from Chinese history. Qing Dynasty 'Flower Houses', a polite euphemism for elegant ... More »

THE LONGEST SUMMER

Fruit Chan is back! The young HK Chinese director who captivated MIFF audiences last year with his dazzling Made in Hong Kong returns with an epic crime thriller set during the lead up to the ... More »

SPRING IN MY HOMETOWN

"As soon as we saw the first image of this film, it was perfectly obvious to us that a genuine director was born." This was the enthusiastic appraisal of the head of the Director's Fortnight panel at ... More »

LEAF ON A PILLOW

Leaf on a Pillow depicts the rough and tumble daily life of three young homeless kids on the streets of Yogyakarta. During the day they scrounge a living in the crowded, nar­row streets of the ... More »

Select a festival
Search The Film Archive
Browse By Director