t.l. Vento spensierato
風兒踢踏踩 (Feng Er Ti Ta Cai)
Taiwan, 1982, 92’, Mandarin
Directed by: Hou Hsiao-hsien
Script: Hou Hsiao-hsien
Photography (color): Chen Kun-hou
Editing: Liao Ching-sung
Production Designer: Kei Hoi-hing
Music: Tso Hung-yuan
Producer: Chang Hua-kun
Cast: Feng Fei-fei (Hsiao Hsing-hui), Kenny Bee (Ku Chin-tai), Anthony Chan (Lo Zai), Chou Wan-sheng (Hsing-hui’s father), Shih Ying (island peddler), Mei Fang (school principal), Wu Ling (Hsing-hui’s mother)
Date of First Release in Territory: 1982; 2018 (restored version)
Premiere status: International Premiere
Before becoming a widely adored arthouse auteur and a leading figure in the New Taiwan Cinema movement, Hou Hsiao-hsien began his career in mainstream films. After working for years as a production assistant and a screenwriter, Hou made his directorial debut in 1980 with Cute Girl, a melodramatic romance featuring pop idols Feng Fei-fei, Kenny Bee and Anthony Chan (Cantopop fans will recognize the latter two as members of popular Hong Kong band the Wynners). The Lunar New Year release was such a commercial success that its investor reunited Hou with his three leads for Cheerful Wind, another Lunar New Year release (as evident by the “Happy New Year” greeting that appears in the end) that also became a hit at the box office.
The film begins on the Pescadores Islands (also known as Penghu), where photography assistant Hsing-hui (Feng) is working on the set of a commercial directed by her colleague and live-in boyfriend, Hongkonger Lo Zai (Chan). During the shoot, Hsing-hui encounters Chin-tai (Bee), a blind man visiting the island, and recruits him to be in the commercial. When they meet again in the big city some time later, Hsing-hui and Chin-tai develop a close friendship that, as expected, blossoms into romance.
Despite working in the constraints of an idols film, Hou still manages to subvert expectations of the genre. The story seems to be setting itself up for a dramatic romantic rivalry between Lo Zai and Chin-tai for Hsing-hui’s affections, but it never goes down that route. Much like the film’s title, Hsing-hui seems to have a very easy-breezy attitude about the potential of cheating on Lo Zai, an oblivious guy who cares more about planning a trip to Europe than making his girlfriend happy. Though our heroine does have to make a choice in the end, there’s very little doubt about whom she will end up with when her choices are the hunky lead singer and the nerdy drummer of the Wynners.
Hou’s fans will also notice that Cheerful Wind already delved into themes that the director later explored in his career. For example, the film creates a strong contrast between Hsing-hui’s frantic life in the city and her easygoing lifestyle in her hometown of Lugu, showing the urban-rural divide that drives the narratives of The Boys from Fengkuei and Dust in the Wind. The film also shows hints of Hou’s interest in depicting the complexities of modern romance, which he eventually explored at much greater depths in Millennium Mambo and Three Times.
At first glance, it would be easy to dismiss Cheerful Wind in the same way that film fans dismiss the so-called “cash grabs” of critically successful arthouse directors. However, the film is absolutely worth seeing as a document of its time and for fans to see how Hou used early directorial efforts to hone his thematic interests and directorial craft. At its best, Cheerful Wind is an entertaining and sometimes silly romantic drama that brings back fond memories of Taiwanese commercial cinema’s brightest years. Now that it’s been beautifully restored by the Taiwan Film Institute, there’s no excuse to miss out on it.
One of the leaders of the New Taiwan Cinema movement and one of the top filmmakers of his generation, Hou Hsiao-hsien has earned numerous accolades around the world for arthouse classics such as A Time to Live, A Time to Die, A City of Sadness, Flowers of Shanghai, Three Times and The Assassin. He remains one of the most prominent and influential figures in Taiwanese cinema today. Cheerful Wind was his second feature film.
1980 – Cute Girl
1982 – Cheerful Wind
1983 – The Boys from Fengkuei
1984 – A Summer at Grandpa’s
1985 – A Time to Live, A Time to Die
1986 – Dust in the Wind
1989 – A City of Sadness
1993 – The Puppetmaster
2001 – Millennium Mambo
2005 – Three Times
2015 – The Assassin