Struggling to get by in the 1960’s Taiwan, the island nation’s golden age of cinema, a young man alters his destiny by turning away from a life of crime and becoming a master of the art of hand-painted movie billboards.
When he’s not loafing around on the streets or engaging in petty burglary, small-time hoodlum Li Mo-cheng occasionally engages in legitimate work delivering packages. One day he accidentally damages a delivery he is making for a one-armed man with a fearsome reputation. When Li Mo-cheng opens the package to inspect the damage, he finds he has ruined part of a hand-painted movie poster intended for a movie production studio. To cover his error, he decides to repaint the damaged portion himself. His ruse is easily discovered, but when the one-armed seeks out Li Mo-cheng, it is not to give him a retaliatory beating, but to offer him a job as a painter’s apprentice!
Only after entering the trade does Li Mo-cheng discover that the one-armed man is the most in-demand movie poster and billboard painter in Taiwan. But as an apprentice, Li Mo-cheng’s duties are to wash paint brushes and perform other menial tasks – hardly a step up from his days of loafing about, and difficult pill to swallow for a man who overrates his own abilities. Only after secretly accepting a commission and having his work rejected by the client does Li Mo-cheng realize there is more to the art of painting movie posters than he first imagined. He further witnesses the role a well-painted poster plays in creating a box office sensation, and feels a sense of accomplishment when one of his sketches is praised by his teacher. However, none of this is enough to spare him from the temptation of easy money when some old associates ask him to help carry out an armed robbery.…
Hand painted movie posters and billboards have a special role of the cinematic history of Taiwan, China, and Japan. Golden Comic Award winner Jian Jia-Cheng recreates the heyday of this overlooked art form with vivid characterizations and compelling storytelling. Additionally, the lives of Taiwan’s most famous movie poster painters are interwoven into the plot to help situate the story within the historical development of the craft.