International Festival Premiere
White Mulberry Award for First Time Director Nominee
Man in Love
當男人戀愛時 (Dang Nan Ren Lian Ai Shi)
Taiwan, 2021, 115’, Mandarin, Taiwanese, Japanese
Directed by: Yin Chen-hao
Script: Lyra Fu, Chien Chih-ching
Photography (color): Chen Chiwen
Editing: Chen Chun-hung
Production Design: Chu Yu-chi
Music: Wen Tzu-chieh
Producers: Chen Wei-hao, Jin Pai-lunn, Zhao Minghui, Gao Qiang, Fang Yi-feng, Liu Guangkai
Cast: Roy Chiu (A-Cheng), Hsu Wei-ning (Wu Hao-ting), Tsai Chen-nan (A-Cheng’s father) Chung Hsin-ling (Madam Tsai), Lan Wei-hua (Da-wei), Zin (Shu-lin), Huang Lu Zi Yin (Ya Ya)
Date of First Release in Territory: April 1st, 2021
It’s rare that a film by a first-time director would be met with as much anticipation as Man in Love. The reason isn’t the popularity of the Korean source material, nor is it completely because of its attractive stars, Roy Chiu (Dear Ex) and Hsu Wei-ning (Who Killed Cock Robin, The Tag-Along); it’s actually largely because the film marks the feature directorial debut of Yin Chen-hao, the director behind a series of music videos for local band EggPlantEgg. Dubbed “The EggPlantEgg Universe Trilogy,” the three music videos – which already have a total of 217 million views on YouTube – tell three intertwined hard-boiled stories of youthful misadventures, unrequited love and star-crossed lovers with surprising emotional depth and visual panache. The music videos are so popular that fans praise them as “better than most local films.”
Man in Love actually plays like an unofficial extension of the EggPlantEgg Universe. Much like the three music videos, the film takes place in a dingy world where tough men try to escape their rough realities for a mere glimpse of love. But Yin takes advantage of a feature film’s storytelling space to tell a fuller story with fleshed-out characters. Taiwanese audiences responded enthusiastically: the film became the sixth highest-grossing local film of all time just 41 days after its theatrical release.
If you’ve seen the original 2014 Korean version of Man in Love, co-written and directed by Han Dong-wook, the story of the Taiwanese remake should sound familiar to you: A-Cheng (Chiu) is a debt collector for a local gangster. He’s not afraid of dishing out violence – both on himself and others – to get his money, but he also spares his debtors when they deserve it. While chasing a debt at a hospital, he is immediately smitten at the first sight of Hao-ting (Hsu), the comatose debtor’s daughter. A-Cheng immediately launches a clumsy courtship that includes harebrained ideas such as reducing her debts in exchange for awkward dinner dates, but Hao-ting’s heart finally softens when she sees the good beneath A-Cheng’s tough guy exterior.
Written by Lyra Fu and Chien Chih-ching, the remake’s script adheres closely to the story of the original, but it does improve upon its source material by smoothing out several narrative hiccups and playing up the comedic aspects. While it’s hard to beat Hwang Jung-min’s heartbreaking performance in the original, Roy Chiu and Hsu Wei-ning make a more winning couple largely thanks to the script devoting more time on A-Cheng and Hao-ting’s relationship and less time on the big twist that carries the story into tearjerker territory.
The premise of a hardened ruffian winning the heart of a pure, beautiful woman is the stuff of fantasies, but the issues that the characters face – poverty, violence and illness – firmly keep Man in Love planted on the ground. Like Yin’s EggPlantEgg music videos, Man in Love is mostly set in seedy bars, love hotels, run-down residential buildings and gambling dens, but Yin and cinematographer Chen Chiwen bathe their images in a gorgeous warm, golden tint and neon glows that give their film an otherworldly romantic quality rarely seen in crime films.
By following its source material, Man in Love does succumb to typical melodrama tropes in its third act, but the film is still successful as a refreshing antidote to the squeaky-clean youth romances that have long dominated the romance genre in Taiwan. What is Yin supposed to do for his follow-up when he’s already made Taiwanese film history with his debut? Fortunately, it won’t take long to find out because he’s already working on his second feature film.
Since co-founding Spacebar Studio in 2012, Yin Chen-hao has been a prolific commercial and music video director. Since his music video for EggPlantEgg’s Back Here Again became a viral sensation, Yin has been one of the most in-demand directors in the industry. In 2020, his music video for Accusefive’s Love won Best Music Video at the Golden Melody Awards. After directing TV movie The Floating Flower in 2018, Yin made his feature directorial debut with Man in Love (2021).
2018 – The Floating Flower (TV movie)
2021 – Man in Love