Movie Feature

Taiwanese director Chen Yu-Hsun cooks up a storm with new movie

By David LeeMovies - 21 October 2013 12:00 AM | Updated 28 November 2013

Taiwanese director Chen Yu-Hsun cooks up a storm with new movie

Zone Pro Site: The Moveable Feast’ is a hit foodie movie that celebrates Taiwan’s rich  ban-doh culinary culture and traditions. Read the review here. 

The stars of the movie Lin Mei Hsiu and Yo Yang, as well as director Chen Yu-Hsun and co- producer Lee Lieh stopped over in Singapore to promote the movie which opened in cinemas on 17 October.

The film also stars Kimi Hsia, Wu Nian-Jen, Ko Yi-Cheng and King Jieh-Wen.

The movie is about the Taiwanese tradition of ban doh, or street banquet.

The title Zone Pro Site sounds like "zong pu shi", which means "master banquet chef" in Chinese.

It comes as no surprise that conversations with the stars and filmmakers tend to revolve around the topic of food and culinary skills.

MORE THAN JUST ACTING

The cast and crew of 'Zone Pro Site: The Moveable Feast' posing for pictures at a press conference at Hotel Fort Canning.

Yo Yang, 31, who shot to fame playing the suave leading man in the gay rom-com ‘Formula 17’ in 2004 (when he was known as Tony Yang back then), was formerly trained in the culinary arts.

Even though he was confident of handling the cooking scenes on his own, when it comes to filming the close-up shots of chopping the food, the director was initially planning to use a hand double to do the chopping. It was only after much convincing and persuasion that he decided to shoot Yo Yang cooking without a stand-in. 

“I had to undergo specialised knife skills training from a master chef. One of the things I learnt was how to carve tofu that allows it to open up into a flower shape when it is dropped into water,” Yang said.

Also read: 'Zone Pro Site: The Moveable Feast' review

“When it comes to filming the cutting scenes, I was chopping at a slower pace thinking that would help the camera capture the action, but the director almost decided to use a hand double again when he complained that I was too slow! I told the director I could cut at a much faster speed, and finally he relented and that was my hands that you see in the final cut!” the Golden Horse award winner added. 

In terms of cooking preferences, Yang prefers to make Western dishes while co-star Lin is skilled in cooking home-styled Taiwanese dishes. “People who tried my food commented that it tasted like their mother’s cooking.” Lin said proudly.

As for producer Lee Lieh, she is well known for being a foodie and always serves up sumptuous meals for the cast and crew during filming. Ironically, the director could only make instant noodles and boil dumplings, not wrapping them. 

Teasing the director, Lee Lieh said “Director Chen might not do much cooking himself, but he has such a vivid imagination that he thought of all these newly created dishes in the movie script, and let others figure out how to cook them for filming.”

“His culinary creativity is in his mind,” she told inSing.

‘Zone Pro Site’ is the long awaited film from Chen who’s made his last feature film, ‘Love Go Go’ in 1997 before turning to television commercials. His 1995 debut feature ‘Tropical Fish’ was a commercial success and it snatched that year’s Golden Horse Award for original screenplay and best supporting actress.

Producer Lee, on the other hand, is a familiar face on Taiwanese TV and cinemas before she made the switch to being behind the camera. All of films that Lee produced over the years have become box office gold.

2008’s ‘Orz Boyz’ made US$1.1 million (S$1.36m) at the Taiwan box office and ‘Monga’ earned US$8.4 million (S$10.4m) two year later. Her 2011 feature ‘Jump Ashin!’ took in US$2.7 million (S$3.3m) as well as garnering awards and nominations at the Taipei Film Festival, Golden Horse Awards, and Asian Film Awards.

RETRO FOOD, RETRO MUSIC

Lin Mei Hsiu and Yo Yang

Also of note is the movie’s retro music, where almost every main character has a selected retro theme song that helps define their characters.

The Hokkien style folk song sung by Yo Yang in the movie – ‘The Silly Ah Hua Blows a Trumpet’ -- originally composed by singer-actor Ma Nian Xian, got so popular that according to director Chen, is now a hit song that helps define the tone of the movie.

“It might sound silly at first, but it will stay in your head for several days after you heard it,” Lee.

The song is nominated for Best Original Song, together with Best Original Music for the upcoming Golden Horse Awards, the most prestigious film awards for Chinese Cinema. 

Chen told inSing that Ma got inspired whenever he brushed his teeth. “I told him to keep brushing his teeth. When Ma finally came up with ‘The Silly Ah Hua’, he proudly proclaimed that this would be his best composition ever!” Chen exclaimed.

Ma even made a little cameo scene but it was cut as the length of the movie ran too long.

In fact, the director’s initial cut ran over three hours. Chen had no choice but to cut away several cameo appearances from people such as Rhydian Vaughan (‘Girlfriend Boyfriend’) and even producer Lee to keep the film a distributor-friendly 145 minutes. You can still catch brief snapshots of the various cameo star appearances at the film’s end credits.

With the current domestic box office in Taiwan hitting NT300 million (S$12.7m), the movie is almost assured of its pole position as the No.1 box office hit in Taiwan for 2013.

Due to its runaway success, the director has promised to start scripting and preparing for a prequel to ‘Zone Pro Site’, which will focus on the backstories of the various Master Chefs featured in the movie.

‘Zone Pro Site: The Moveable Feast’ is now showing in cinemas.