Movie Review: 總舖師 Zone Pro Site

(no spoilers ;))
[last updated: 2015-05-28]

Zone Pro Site Mural

The week-end is upon us, with a grey sky still shrouding the island, paralysing people indoors. In those moments, let’s rejoy the invention of malls, temples of consumption, with food courts to feed the populace, stores to keep us window-shopping, and movie theatres to temporarily escape reality. In short, a good time to brave the rain to go watch 總舖師 Zone Pro Site, and forget the depressing weather for 2 hours and 25 minutes.

About English
First of all, about the title, Zone Pro Site. As one person vehemently commented in the Taipei Times, Zone Pro Site has to be one of the worst English translation ever, and I can only agree. It’s quite disappointing that they did not come up with a better title, one which at the very least makes sense and gives an idea of what the movie is about, such as “Banquet Chef” or “My Favorite Caterer” as suggested by the Taipei Times commentator.

Interestingly so, after a few weeks out on the screens, the English title has been updated to Zone Pro Site: The Movable Feast which definitely sounds better. I kind of wonder if this is a last minute change or if they’ve always had it in the bag…

A great improvement from past Taiwanese movies that I’ve watched in the past, is the addition of English subtitles. Dialogues usually tend to contain quite a lot of the Taiwanese dialect, and even if one can read Chinese characters, it still makes it inconvenient to enjoy the movie, so efforts to make the movies accessible to foreigners is definitely a good move from the production. I hope they’ll keep that trend for future productions. I remember how excited I was about Night Market Hero 雞排英雄, only to be turned off after too much dialogue in Taiwanese without English subtitles, which is a shame because the story looked promising.

I don’t know if the movie is destined to be promoted abroad, but marketed with a different title, I think it has some potential to attract audiences at international film festivals, and why not, the Berlinale Culinary Cinema.
The movie was featured at the Berlinale Culinary Cinema in 2014, now, is that cool or is that cool? 🙂

Taiwanese Culture
I read somewhere that Taiwanese movies are mostly shot outdoors due to a lack of space and resources to build Hollywood-like studios, but this certainly doesn’t take away from producing great movies. Actually, I quite enjoy it. I love recognizing familiar places, guessing what is shot where, and discovering new sights and corners of this little island.

The movie is packed with cultural references, tying old and new elements of the Taiwanese society, and I’m sure I did not grasp it all, but noticed enough to realize all the thoughts and work that went into writing the scenario.

For example, you have the presence of the migrant Indonesian caretaker, a common fixture in Taiwan’s contemporary society. There’s also the mural created for the purpose of the movie, reminiscent of the artsy paintings from the Rainbow Village 彩虹眷村 in Taichung. Quintessential elements of the Taiwanese food culture also appeared, like soy sauce 醬油, chao mifen 炒米粉,  cabbage, railroad bento 鐵路便當, egg tea 茶蛋, century egg 皮蛋, etc… and many more which I can’t remember. Let’s also not forget, the main topic of the movie, bandoh 辦卓, those roadside catered banquets, held for major life events, even though the tradition is slowly loosing its cool to indoors and air-conditioned banquets at nice hotels.

The Manga Touch
At times, some scenes feel straight out of a manga, with an exaggerated scenario, but just enough to be funny and not tacky. For readers of Les Gouttes de Dieu, the homeless Master Silly Mortal character should also feel familiar, like a cousin of Robert Doi, the knowledgeable wine master who also humbly lives as a homeless.

Overall, this was a great movie, with great acting from the mains actors to the supporting ones, a funny story line, a bit of drama, some emotions and a good dose of humor. If it was a dish, I’d say it was was well executed with a perfect osmosis of all the ingredients, well seasoned with bits of culture and fantasy, but that it lacked a little on the presentation due to its English title. I can’t wait for the movie to come out on DVD to watch it again and pick up on some details I missed from the language gap and  laughing too much.

I’m not sure that my review made justice to the movie, but I can guarantee that it does not disappoint. Andrew from Radio Taiwan International agrees, and even conducted a great interview with the director and screenwriter Chen Yu-hsun (陳玉勳).

Extra fun: shooting locations in Tainan County
To extend the fun and revisit some the movie’s scenes, the Tainan City Tourism Bureau has conveniently put together a map of the outdoor shooting locations in Tainan County.

Shooting Locations in Tainan County (from Tainan City Government Tourism Bureau 台南市觀光旅遊局提供)
Shooting Locations in Tainan County (from Tainan City Government Tourism Bureau 台南市觀光旅遊局提供)

Official information about the movie is available on the Ablaze Image blog, they will represent the film internationally.

If you’ve already seen it, hate it or not, feel free to share your thoughts :).

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5 thoughts on “Movie Review: 總舖師 Zone Pro Site

  1. I haven’t watched it yet but planning to, and that won’t thanks to its title! it is the worse I ever saw for a Taiwanese film. I mean $%#^% ! a phonetic translation of the title! This is ridiculous.This film might be one of the best taiwanese films this year, at least if we look at the box office, so I might want to check what attract taiwanese audience so much.

    Regarding your note about English subs, I don’t really agree with you because since Cape No.7 English subs have been there almost everytime (though sometimes very bad if I may) You might have been unlucky to watch one of the only ones that didn’t have it. Besides, I went to a Korean and a Jap film last year and English subs were on to.
    I think Taiwan is getting more and more aware of its international audience.

    Cheers.

    Like

    1. You’re right to point out that Taiwan is getting more aware of its international audience, so let’s hope they’ll also invest more for better translation service 🙂
      I hope you’ll enjoy the movie, it’s really one of the best Taiwanese movie I’ve seen.

      Like

  2. “I read somewhere that Taiwanese movies are mostly shot outdoors due to a lack of space and resources to build Hollywood-like studios, but this certainly doesn’t take away from producing great movies. Actually, I quite enjoy it. I love recognizing familiar places, guessing what is shot where, and discovering new sights and corners of this little island.”

    Actually, it’s this that I really love about Taiwanese movies and dramas. They feel more real than movies that are primarily produced within studios. That familiarity with places within the movie is true definitely helps you to really get into the entire world the movie is creating. It’s so real and it’s something you know from your own experiences. It’s that touch of reality that I love.

    Thanks for the great review! I hope to get the chance to watch it soon.

    Like

    1. You said it well, that touch of reality and familiarity really helps to get into the movie, and I guess this movie is even more engaging because it’s about food, a topic everyone enjoys.

      Like

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