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Love in Taipei: Meet Director Arvin Chen

by Neil Bui

Coinciding with the release of Love in Taipei, the live action adaptation of Abigail Hing Wen’s novel Loveboat, Taipei, the film’s director Arvin Chen spoke with Dorkaholics about the film, his work as a Taiwanese filmmaker, and his thoughts on capturing the essence of Taipei and Taiwan.

​​Neil Bui: Hi Arvin, my name is Neil, I’m with Dorkaholics where we believe that there’s a dork in everyone and it’s our job to bring that dork out into the world. I know that a lot of your filmography has been as a Taiwanese filmmaker, shooting Taiwanese cinema, and Love in Taipei takes place in Taiwan but is much more western (as a film). How did your experiences shooting primarily Taiwanese cinema play a role in the success of this directorship as well as any unique challenges or opportunities for you to grow as a filmmaker?

Arvin Chen: I looked at it as a challenge, like exactly as you were saying. I had made movies in Taiwan, but I had never made a movie in Taiwan that was more aimed towards a western audience or a more global audience. So, I think that was kind of challenging. The fun was like, you know how to present Taiwan and Taipei specifically in a way which is more palatable or accessible for a Western audience and especially a younger Western audience, but then also how to heighten it so they make it like it’s not just a completely realistic Taipei, but kind of like a heightened pop Taipei. I shot Taipei so many times, but I had never done that version. So that was kind of fun and challenging for me.

Neil Bui: What was your favorite scene to film for this project?

Arvin Chen: My favorite scene for sure is when they’re dancing on the sky bridge. It’s like towards the middle end of the movie. But just because I’ve never done a shot like that before in my other movies and just the idea of putting these two kids on this bridge and have you overlook the city. I thought it was just a nice way for me to really capture some kind of romance that can only happen in Taipei. The skybridge is all over Taipei. But just like that one shot really felt like this is what it would feel like to fall in love in Taipei.

Neil Bui: In regard to filming in Taiwan and Taipei, what would you consider the quintessential essence of capturing Taiwan, Taipei and all of its magnificence or glory or splendor?

Arvin Chen: I think trying to shoot at night because Taipei really is a city that comes alive at night. To be honest, it’s not a very pretty city aesthetically during the day. But at night, just because there’s so many lights, so many colored lights like, there’s so much life on the street at night, I think that the quintessential Taipei is just to capture that feeling of night and the city that doesn’t ever fall asleep. And there’s always something going on at night, so I think that that is the essence of Taipei to me is like the nighttime.

Neil Bui: What from the novel, if you happened to have read it, did you take and realize ‘this is something that I can already imagine visually on how I’m going to capture this for the film’?

Arvin Chen: I think in the novel there is like a dancing on the rooftop scene and it was always one of the first things I thought about was like, ‘oh, this is why I’d like to adapt or I would like to shoot the adaptation is because this idea of a young woman dancing on a rooftop with Taipei behind her’ that always was interesting to me. So, I think it was that image [that] was the idea that I really wanted to try to get, but also that to me was thematically what the movie or the book was about.

Neil Bui: And for my last question, I like to end interviews with who is your favorite character or protagonist that you watched or read growing up, that essentially made you a dork?

Arvin Chen: A dork? [During] my college years, I watched a lot of Wes Anderson movies. Like I always identified with the Jason Schwartzman character in Rushmore, Max Fischer, who’s pretty dorky, but I think of myself so much as like that type of character still. So, I think that’s definitely a character that comes to my mind a lot because I obsessed over that character.

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