chapter  3
The impossible task of Taipei films
ByYOMI BRAESTER
Pages 9

In the beginning of Sharen jihua/My Whispering Plan (2002, dir. Qu Youning aka Arthur Chu),2 a teenage girl walks out of her house, greets her neighbors who are moving out, and examines the evacuation order pasted on the wall. The entire alley is marked, on both sides, with a yellow hazard tape, reading “Danger, Construction; Please Do Not Approach,” as a sign that the area is going to be demolished. The main storyline proceeds to follow the girl, Jane, and her growing estrangement from her seventh-grade classmate, Sunny. At the same time, the film also tells the story of the disappearance of a Taipei neighborhood, Baozangyan, and records its demolition in real time. As such, My Whispering Plan subscribes to what I have called “the documentary impulse” in urban cinema, that is, the use of film to capture images of fast-changing skylines and vanishing cityscapes. Yet, I will argue that My Whispering Plan also signals the limits of documentation. The record is at best partial, attesting to cinema’s inability to visualize the city’s disappearance. Moreover, the documentary impulse is a cover-up, using demolition scenes to avoid places where the cinema cannot – or is not willing – to go. My Whispering Plan is a prime example of the limits of bearing witness to the changing urban environment. As such, the film may also serve as a metaphor for the impossible task of Taiwanese urban cinema.