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Review: I, PUPPET Reveals the Magical Artistry of Glove Puppetry

Review: I, PUPPET Reveals the Magical Artistry of Glove Puppetry

The short documentary is scheduled for its first public showing at the Voelker Orth Museum in New York on October 30th.

At street fairs, in local churches, on a merry-go-round, and at landmarks across the Big Apple's neighborhoods, Yi Wei Tsai, the director of the Puppetry Art Center of Taipei (PACT), has been wowing New York audiences with his performances of potehi (glove puppetry), a form of cloth puppets opera that originated in the 17th Century in Fujian, China and enjoys immense popularity in Taiwan.

Now, in a collaboration with filmmaker Hsuan Yu Pan, Tsai's beloved art form is thankfully brought to film for a broader audience to see.

I, PUPPET 我, 戲偶 is Pan's magical, poetic, and engaging short documentary of Yi Wei Tsai's creative and imaginative use of the art form in what emerges as a fanciful odyssey through New York's urban landscape.

From the opening frame, Tsai's puppets scale walls, gardens and lamp posts in what appears to be a combat for the favor of Moutan, a beautifully adorned woman, who has lamented the absence of her true love.

The juxtaposition of the rhythmic movements of ancient figures with the traffic of the city is quite a sight to see. As the film's promotion states, the street is the puppeteer's stage. Indeed, it is. Shedding the restrictions of black boxes, Tsai's animated hands guide his puppets through an explosion of colors and movement against the backdrop of urban concrete and metal.

Pan captures the excitement and vitality of Tsai's work. Her camera is loyal to portraying his enjoyment of his craft and the dynamism with which he performs it.

Tsai's enchanting storytelling is accentuated by the melodic and rhythmic composition of Luke Notary and the explosion of hues in the aesthetic of the puppets' flowing robes.

For nearly five minutes, the viewer can count on being transported happily into a domain rich with tradition and romance.

Once again, as in her earlier films (Hear, Eat, Home: Kinan's Vision, My Mother's Table, Alone/Together), Hsuan Yu Pan demonstrates her keen ability to use film as a bridge to cross-cultural understanding and appreciation.

I, PUPPET (4:32) is scheduled for its first public showing at the Voelker Orth Museum in New York on October 30th. The screening, sponsored by the Taiwanese American Arts Council, is part of the opening reception (beginning at 2:00 p.m.) of Walking in the Cosmos: Artists: Artists Interpreting Urban Reverence.

Venue: The Voelker Orth Museum, Bird Sanctuary and Victorian Garden ~ 14919 38th Avenue, Queens, NY ~ 718-359-6227

Photo credit to Hsuan Yu Pan

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