‘Zone Pro Site: The Moveable Feast’: A wistful banquet
What is the meaning of ‘Zone Pro Site’?
The movie title dates back to Taiwan’s early agricultural village days when major life events (weddings, mass community feasts) would occur, outdoor banquets call Ban-doh (办桌) would be held and the master chef of these banquets were known as a Zong Po Sai (in Taiwanese Hokkien), hence the direct phonetic translation into a string of seemingly meaningless English words. Thankfully, the film’s international title has added ‘The Moveable Feast’ to illustrate the fact that this is a foodie movie.
Besides showcasing an array of tasty grub and stimulating delicacies, ‘Zone Pro Site’ is also filled with many colourful and memorable characters, such as those who inhabit a Wuxia Martial arts world.
Legend has it that many years ago, there were three Ban-doh Master Chefs who are known as the best cooks in the business, each armed with an impressive culinary skill set and characteristics.
There is Master Silly Mortal (played by Taiwan New Wave filmmaker Wu Nien-jen) from the North, whose cooking can make one feel humanity.
Master Ghost Head (played by veteran actor King Jieh-wen) from Central Taichung, a cool ghostrider who transforms into a hot headed gangster when provoked.
Finally, there is old Master Fly Spirit (also played by another veteran filmmaker Ko Yi-cheng) from Southern Tainan, famous for making traditional dishes, and whose dying wish is to pass on his recipes and culinary skills to his only daughter Xiao Wan.
However, the ditzy daughter has dreams of her own to become a star in Taipei and runs away, rejecting her dad’s dying wishes, only to return years later when she’s being chased by two bumbling loan sharks.
During her journey back, she meets a love interest Ah Hai (played by Yo Yang), a travelling gourmet doctor who never stops volunteering his services to help improve people’s cooking. Last but not least, there is Ai Feng (Lin Mei-hsiu) Xiao Wan’s mother who gives the movie’s best comic lines.
Lin Mei-hsiu effortlessly delivers her dialogue without batting an eyelid, proving why she is currently one of the most sought after comedienne actress in Taiwan.
While the plot is pretty much a coming of age story for Xiao Wan to fulfill her destiny, there’s a clear heartwarming feel to the movie thanks to all the other supporting players’ colourful characterisations and fun filled performances.
Worth noting is Yo Yang whose well-played deadpan performance and comic timing is done so subtly and effectively, making his supporting role one of the most memorable characters in the movie.
Colorful visuals and retrolicious music
As ‘Zone Pro Site’ is ultimately a tribute to good old traditional values and nostalgia, the film’s soundtrack evokes a certain era and mood. The most powerful character introduction has to be Master Ghost Head, defining retro cool as he rides into frame in his Vespa scooter, supported by the playback of 70’s Mando pop superstar Liu Wen Zheng’s hit song ‘Deep in Thoughts (沉思)’
Even if you do not recognize the song, the opening guitar riff is bound to bring you back in time to the retro 70’s. Ma Nien-hsien, famous from his character bit role in ‘Cape No.7’, contributes a witty Hokkien folk song (sung by Yo Yang) which not only became the movie’s theme song and also nominated for Best Original Song in the upcoming Golden Horse Awards.
As suggested by the movie’s poster, the film is also filled with vivid saturated colors, from Xiao Wan’s ever changing wardrobe to Master Silly Mortal’s beautifully-lit underground metro hideout and the Ban-doh cooking showdown finale, the movie never stops serving up scenes of colorful visual feasts.
It has been sixteen years since director Chen Yu-hsuan last helm a full-length feature, and his commercial and music video filming days have definitely served him well in visual storytelling.
Nevertheless, tighter editing might have help ‘Zone Pro Site’ by trimming away some unnecessary scenes to shorten the film’s lengthy run time. All in all, ‘Zone Pro Site’ achieves its primary thematic objectives of transporting audiences back in time to our nostalgic memories, adding heavy doses of laughter to the bittersweet tears.
As if the movie is not enough to satisfy one’s comedic appetites, stay behind for the end credits as the energetic cast continues with more crazy behind-the-scenes antics, showing you how much fun they have in making the movie!
Zone Pro Site: A Moveable Feast