* 2020 Taiwan Literature Award
Film researcher Su Chih Heng guides readers through the rise and fall of Taiwan’s golden age of cinema, a brief flourishing of local-language blockbusters that swept the island nation during the 1960’s.
While Taiwanese directors like Hou Hsiao-Hsien and Ang Li are well-known to film buffs worldwide, few outside Taiwan will have heard of the golden age of Taiwanese cinema that predates these perennial award-winners, nor of the dramatic boom-and-bust that ended Taiwan’s first flash of cinematic glory.
Starting in the mid-1950’s with the first screen adaptations of Hokkien-language folk operas, Taiwan’s film industry quickly ramped up production, gracing local theaters with three new releases per week. In the 1970’s, however, this thriving industry collapsed, and Taiwanese cinema showed no signs of recovery until the rise of the New Wave in the 1980’s.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Taiwan brings this forgotten flourishing of Hokkien film to life. Blending narrative history and critical analysis, the book situates Taiwan’s golden age of cinema within the economic and political landscape of the times. A former researcher at the Taiwan Film Institute, author Su Chih Heng carefully considers the impact of politically imposed Mandarin-language standards, the technical challenges of conversion to color film, and structural problems within the industry in his post-mortem of Taiwan’s early film studios.
A valuable study of a neglected era of cinematic history, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Taiwan is equally a work of nostalgia. Through production stills, period movie posters, and painstaking research, Su Chih Heng pays fond tribute to those who worked in Taiwan’s Hokkien-language film industry, and the movie studios where their dreams were brought to life.