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Taiwanese author shocks critics with successful film

2011-12-13 13:39     Web Editor: Zhang Chan
The poster of the movie You Are the Apple of My Eye.

The poster of the movie "You Are the Apple of My Eye."

( no previous experience as a film director, respected Taiwanese writer Giddens Ko (popularly known as Jiu Badao, or "Nine Knives"), baffled critics when he made a record-breaking movie debut earlier this year. 

Jiu's film earned 410 million TWD ($13.58 million) after it screened on August 19, making it the second highest-grossing movie ever in Taiwan. When it screened in Hong Kong (on Oct. 20), its box office value surpassed that of "Infernal Affairs II" ($1.4 million) and "Lust, Caution" ($1.79 million), lifting it the top ten list of highest-grossing films in HK.

Like every filmgoer who dreams of directing their own movie, Jiu Badao had also thought of adapting his own semi-autobiographical novel "The Girl We Chased Together in Those Years." Already a bestseller among Chinese readers, the story was taken from the author's own teenage life.

The protagonist Ko Ching-Teng (Jiu Badao's real name, played by Ko Chen-Tung) and his gang (Boner, Cock, Groin and A-Ho) are the bad boys of Ching-Cheng High, a backwater school in Changhua, located in west-central Taiwan.

The five boys all fall in love with their classmate Shen Chia-Yi (played by Chen Yanxi), who is not only beautiful but also smart. The film follows the five boys as they strive to impress her during junior high, senior high and then onto university. However, the girl eventually chooses to marry a man who is eight years older, and appears to be more successful than any of the five boys.

The film differs from other commercial and iconic teenage films, as it addresses teen problems and confusion with a heightened sense of realism.

The director shot some scenes with sexual implications, for example, and asked the protagonist to walk around the house naked. At first, the movie examination department gave the film an X rating, which led Jiu to make a public explanation.

"This is not an erotic film, and using nude scenes is just a way to express that young boys have troubles in their teenage years," said Jiu. Most of the scenes in question have been animated to express that these are things that all boys experience, he added.

The explanation worked and the department loosened the rating before it debuted.

The heroine of the movie represents a certain type of girl that teenage boys fall in love with, but are also afraid of, according to Jiu.

"Through this story, I wanted to tell girls that boys can be childish, and that sometimes they like girls only for their appearance. But I hope that they can forgive them and tolerate them," said Jiu.

Targeting females is one reason why the movie turned out to be such a success, according to some movie reviewers. Nevertheless, with no experience, no major investors and no big stars, the movie was thought to be doomed from the start by many insiders.

Using all the savings he had collected since 2005, Jiu hired two assistant directors to help him. "Many people held a negative attitude toward the movie, and some even bet that the box office would not surpass US$662,822, but we made it," he said.

"I should say that I am lucky, but the story of the movie is really a good one. Though many turned their backs on us, with our passion and confidence we achieved success, and I hope that the theme of this movie will inspire more people to move on," Jiu added.

Jiu was already a productive online writer and had gained a solid reputation ten years ago. He has published over 60 books.

Although Jiu said that he will continue to direct other films based on his novels, the result may not be as successful. "I don't mean that the scripts aren't good, but the attitude is different," said Jiu. "I made this movie with all my passion, which is hard to find."