By: Ryan Farrell, Staff Writer
Last week, longtime producer Alan Yang released his sixth directorial release. Tigertail is a Taiwanese film that tells the story of an immigrant through multiple points in his life, slowly revealing his dramatic plots. While this is a competent film, at points it feels like it has bitten off more than it can chew.
Pin-Jui, a young Taiwanese man, agrees to an arranged marriage in order to pursue career opportunities in America. As a result, he leaves his true love Yuan in Taiwan without any notice. Pin-Jui constantly works at a convenience store while his wife tends to their New York City apartment. As the years go by, this arrangement’s lack of compassion devoids both of their former spirits. Decades pass, and as a retiree with two adult children, Pin-Jui can only ponder on what life would be like if he had stayed with Yuan. When his daughter confronts him about her upcoming engagement, Pin-Jui must decide if he wants to support her.
The most appealing aspects of Tigertail lie within the acting and the cinematography. A variety of techniques were used to differentiate the setting of Taiwan and New York City. This aspect aided in contrasting Pin-Jui’s happiness before and after the transition. Lighting is something that is particularly used effectively, especially when depicting the raw and dirty nature of the city at the time. To the contrary of this, the bright fields illustrate how Pin-Jui’s joy lies within his youthful memories.
In addition, the acting also heightened the film. This is especially difficult considering there are multiple actors playing the same character. Each different version was believably connected to their counterpart, and as a result it achieves part of its multigenerational venture. Tzi Ma, the actor that plays the late Pin-Jui is particularly effective in playing a complex character filled with distraught and regret.
Despite these aspects, the misguided and confusing multiple timelines prevent Tigertail from becoming a classic. During Pin-Jui’s complete story, there are four different timelines. Some of the transitions felt very abrupt; a significant amount of them did not really lead into the next scene in a logical way. As a result, the audience may often find themselves lost. While these scenes are not necessarily bad, their placement does not always tell a concise story.
The scenes set in Taiwan are particularly interesting because of the director’s attention to detail. The setting always feels authentic, filled with singers, dancers, food and other common sights. On the contrary, New York City also has heightened details in order to show the cultural difference. The streets are run down, yet their manufactured attractions bring in countless people. This juxtaposition helps bring insight into Pin-Jui’s perspective.
The music in the Taiwanese sections was particularly good due to the homage that it pays to its cultural roots. Its authenticity adds heart to the film. While the music was proficient, it contrasts with other music in Tigertail. While this difference is purposeful, the music during scenes in America was ultimately not as memorable.
Tigertail is now streaming exclusively on Netflix.