Winds Of September (2008)

Directed by: Tom Lin
Written by: Tom Lin & Henry Tsai
Producers: Eric Tsang & Jo Yeh Ju-Feng
Starring: Chang Jie, Rhydian Vaughan, Jennifer Chu, Wang Bo-Chieh, Lin Chi-Tai, Sheng Wei-Nian, Chiu Yi-Cheng, Ji Pei-Hui, Lee Yue-Cheng & Eric Tsang

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Award at the Taiwan Golden Horse Awards 2008:
Best Original Screenplay (Tom Lin & Henry Tsai)

Nominations at the Taiwan Golden Horse Awards 2008:
Best Editing (Chen Hsiao-Dong)
Formoz Film Award

Co-produced by Eric Tsang (who is again one of Hong Kong's premier supporters of new talent and small projects. See Magic Boy and The Pye-Dog for examples), Winds Of September is the first of a thematic trilogy concerning youth, friendship etc by different filmmakers set in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Mainland China. Reportedly originating the project himself, Tom Lin helms the first chapter set in Taiwan and it would be criminal would he not get on that sparse Taiwan map of internationally acclaimed filmmakers. With a fantastic eye for youth realism and universal complexity, the trilogy gets off to a splendid, challenging start.

Set in 1996 in the months before graduation for seven young boys, we follow them as they adore the local baseball stars, drink together and also have their friendships strongly tested together. More is not needed for Tom Lin's synopsis because while structured, Lin essentially stands behind the camera and creates various events, big or not, in a pulled back documentary fashion almost. He gives us a view of the youthful innocence that almost starts a riot at a baseball game, a breaks in into the school's swimming pool but the group of seven are together. Undeniably having a strong bond. It's good natured, daily life routines but the group is broken up in harrowing fashion.

Now, it's not harrowing in the sense of unexpected bloodshed being injected but harrowing in a realistic manner for these youths. It all starts with a pager or rather the lack of one, a misunderstanding, a few stitches to the forehead and all that is enough to create a conflict. Contrasting the downwards spiral with the seemingly real life baseball scandal, Tom Lin's eye for catching all of the above joy and conflicts is absolutely terrific. Choosing to underplay but not let it disappear in the background, furthermore we get evidence of even the confident player in the group, the character of Yen played by Rhydian Vaughan, not particularly knowledgeable about the opposite sex. It's evidence of all of these being kids in development. Again, criminally well captured by an non-intrusive director. Even when faced with criminal charges, the test of loyalty and brotherhood is a complex injection into the story and the harrowing emotional effects are very real and naturally handled by the cast. None better than our lead Tang, played by Chang Jie who's also well cast in terms of a lead presence.

Tom Lin's structure up until the final frames are what's probably going to turn off a mainstream audience but if you realize he's providing a slice of life in progress, Winds Of September comes through with its universal complexities to deliver a mesmerizing universal tale that I'm sure will play fine as a story come Hong Kong and Mainland China time. You other directors, you have a benchmark to live up to now.

The DVD (Mei Ah):

Video: 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen.

Audio: Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 and and Mandarin DTS 5.1.

Subtitles: English, traditional Chinese and simplified Chinese.

Extras: Trailer and the useless Databank.


reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson