Touch of the Light (2012)

Actors: Harry Chang, Simon Hsueh, Sandrine Pinna
Director: Chang Jung-Chi
Studio: Taipei Film/ Fortissimo/ Well Go USA Ent. [11/25/14]
Video: 1.85:1 for 16:9 color
Audio: Mandarin DD 5.1 & 2.0
Subtitles: English
Extras: Previews
Length: 110 minutes
Rating: ****

This Chinese film originally started out as a short documentary on the actual blind pianist, Huang Yu-Siang. It has been expanded into a feature, but doesn’t come across as 100% effective in that form. The story concerns a young blind piano prodigy who enters a Taipei university to learn music, but is dogged by the sad memory of having given up entering piano competitions (where he always won) after overhearing someone saying “he just won because he’s blind.”

Yu-Siang’s mother at first doesn’t really accept her blind son, but eventually is very helpful and concerned about him. At the university he becomes part of a group of eccentric music students and plays the piano as the basis for their act. He first hears the lovely voice of Ziao Jie, and later she helps him across a busy street and they become friends. She works in a drink shop but her life is not going well and she wants so much to be a dancer. There is a mild emotional connection between them.

The film ends with Jie having a successful dance audition and Siang getting tumultous applause for his musical group at a competition. The emotional side of things is quite subdued compared to Western films, but the feelings of Yu-Siang are well demonstrated, often by just his facial expressions. One gets a feeling for what it must be like to be blind. Siang often expresses that he doesn’t want to be a bother to others. What bothered me a bit was that in live action Japanese films, the heroine often looks quite Western, with just a touch of Japanese. Whereas Pinna looks completely like the cute girl next door in America – not even a bit Chinese. Nor does her name appear Chinese.

—John Sunier