The first film magazines in Taiwan were published during the 1940s, with at least five publications in circulation at the time. Due to the sombre political climate and strict publishing controls, these short-lived film magazines had only a limited sphere of influence.
In the 1950s, film companies started to publish their own publicity materials. These included publications such as International Film Education (国际电影教育), by the Motion Picture & General Investment studio (MP&GI), and the celebrity-oriented Social Studies and Motion Pictures Weekly (社教影剧周报). Among these magazines, there was also Movie Arts & Techniques (电影学报), a publication singled out by respected film critic Huang Ren for its scholarship. It was founded in 1958 but folded after just six issues in 1966.
However, the two most important publications that contributed to cinematic discourse in Taiwan were Theatre (剧场) and Influence (影响).
From its debut on 1 January 1965 to its last issue on 15 January 1968, Theatre published a total of nine issues. Priding itself as a magazine that introduced and analyzed avant-garde cinema and theatre, its sections on cinema were generally better received, and continued to inspire readers years later. In one of these sections, the magazine frequently translated the screenplays of what were then considered “avant-garde” films. These included Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959) and Last Year at Marienbad (1961) by Alain Resnais, La Dolce Vita (Federico Fellini, 1960) and La Notte (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960). Although these films are now regarded as cinematic classics, they were seldom screened in Taipei at the time. Eager cinephiles who had no access to these films could only imagine them in their heads with the help of these translated screenplays. This created a strangely ironic phenomenon where Taiwanese cinephiles would be thoroughly familiar with films that they have never seen before.
The equally legendary film magazine, Influence, had a more complicated history. Its first incarnation debuted on 10 December 1971, and, after 15 issues, ceased publication in March 1977. It resumed in December 1977 for another nine issues, but eventually folded, once again, in September 1979. A decade later, a newly revamped version of the magazine was launched on 20 November 1989. Although the new team intended to continue in the tradition of the first two incarnations, the new version of Influence bore little similarities to its previous versions.
Like Theatre, the 70s versions of Influence were also niche publications, and continued in the tradition of introducing films by renowned foreign directors. However, Influence was far more influential on the film community. On top of its serious appraisal of Hong Kong and Taiwanese cinema, it was also known for its sharp criticism of current film culture. It had the foresight of recognizing the talent of Sung Tsun-shou (Song Cunshou), a filmmaker who was largely neglected at the time. In addition, it was also notorious for its list of Ten Worst Films, which was relentless in criticizing filmmakers who attempted to use their power to dominate the film industry. This created a huge controversy which put Influence under constant pressure from every field. On the other hand, it also gave Influence the reputation of being a cultural champion.
Neither Theatre nor Influence were widely circulated at the time. Largely ignored by the media, they did not enjoy a wide readership. They were only hailed by cinephiles much later because of their defiantly objective stance in the face of mass propaganda.
It was tough supporting these publications in those days, not because readers would get into trouble if they did (Taiwan wasn’t that repressive, and people didn’t treat these magazines seriously anyway), but because it was difficult to see the films that the writers were championing. Information on these movies were few and far between, and not many films even screened in theatres at the time. This is what sets apart the 90s version of Influence (or, as it is now called, Imagekeeper Monthly, 新影响).
By the late 80s, MTV lounges started to proliferate in Taiwan. In this uniquely Taiwanese version of the Japanese karaoke lounge, one could select and watch any amount of VHS tapes or Laser Discs for just NT$100. It even came with a free drink. This fad lasted all the way til the early 90s, right until American copyright law decimated the industry. Incredibly, one could find in an MTV lounge old classics, arthouse movies, and even little-known ethnic films that had yet to find their way into film textbooks. It had even more films than a proper film library.
From its inception, Imagekeeper Monthly had had a close working relationship with the then-famous “Sun MTV Lounge” chain, since they were both owned by the same person. Under the leadership of critic-turned-filmmaker Chen Kuo-fu, the magazine dedicated twenty to thirty pages of every issue to relatively unknown auteurs such as Pedro Almodovar, Peter Greenaway, and Andrei Tarkovsky. In conjunction with this, it also provided a VHS mail order service for the films of the different auteurs it profiled. Since none of these auteurs were ever screened in Taiwanese cinemas, this was the only film education available to ardent cinephiles. These cinephiles didn’t mind that the sale of these VHS tapes bordered on piracy; for collectors who were already willing to pay for these films, this service was seen more as a charity than as a business.
Alas, this couldn’t last long. With the “Special 301 Report” came the international enforcement of copyright under U.S. trade law. This marked the demise of the MTV lounges that had long operated on the fringes of legality. Imagekeeper Monthly had always depended on these lounges for its funding; it was more expensive to produce than most magazines due to its extensive and in-depth writing, and its sales were just not high enough to sustain its costs. There were many hiatuses in its 82-issue history (20 November 1989-February 1997). Its gradual shift in focus from auteur filmmakers to celebrities also reflected its struggle to adapt and survive.
In April 1997, an 83rd issue appeared under a new name. Under new ownership, the magazine no longer only focused on film; it also included topics such as multimedia, visual arts, music, and social issues. This incarnation of the magazine was even more short-lived this time. Within a year, failing to attract new readers and losing old fans, the magazine finally ceased publication for good.
Many considered Imagekeeper Monthly the ideal film magazine because of its wide-ranging and extensive coverage on European, Hollywood, and Asian films. Every issue focused on an important film personality and included in-depth reviews of recent theatrically-released films (usually 2-3000 words per review), facts and statistics on film production, feature reports, and film festival news. It even included a small section on television, music and commercial cinema. In other words, it was far more approachable than the previous incarnations of Influence. On the other hand, the sheer amount of writing in the magazine was often too much to digest. It was this very quality, however, and the magazine’s timeless film coverage that made old issues of Imagekeeper Monthly sought-after collector’s items.
Currently, the most widely-read film magazine in Taiwan is World Screen Magazine (世界电影), a monthly publication that focuses on recently released films and Hollywood celebrity news. First published in September 1966, it is one of Taiwan’s oldest existing publications. For many young cinephiles, the magazine functions as an introduction to cinema, thanks to its coverage of current movies. Only the columns in the magazine enjoy more freedom in scope. Incidentally, World Screen Magazine was also the first film magazine I subscribed to when I was in secondary school. My very first review, on John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow, was published here when I was 16, and I have been writing a column for the magazine since 1990. For a long time, I was writing for both World Screen Magazine and Imagekeeper Monthly, two magazines with completely different styles.
In the late 1990s, the team behind Imagekeeper Monthly started LOOK, a magazine that was similar in style to World Screen Magazine. Although it changed ownership a number of times and eventually changed its name to iLOOK, the magazine managed to survive on its own even after Imagekeeper Monthly‘s demise. This reflected the tough market for film magazines in Taiwan.
The most academic film magazine in Taiwan is Film Appreciation Journal (电影欣赏). Being the key publication of the Chinese Taipei Film Archive, it has managed to stay afloat even after the downfall of several other important publications. It is mainly given out free to members of the film archive, scholars and other associated institutions. Film Appreciation Journal quickly became an important publication in its early days, because it featured articles on film history, genres, and theory. It also frequently translated pivotal film essays from all around the world. As a result, some of its archival issues remain well-referenced by film scholars today. In addition, it also featured interviews with international filmmakers when their work was screened in Taiwanese film festivals, providing year-end reviews of their oeuvres. Unfortunately, due to its infrequent publication, the magazine never quite reached out to the film community at large. As article submissions started to fall, the bi-monthly magazine started to publish only once every three months. Regardless of this, Film Appreciation Journal remains the only regular platform for academic film criticism.
At a time when monthly film magazines are about to be replaced by online publications, a new magazine, Cue, was launched by a team of young people in April 2010. Unlike other film magazines, it is neither dominated by Hollywood discourse, nor by serious film criticism. Instead, using cinema as its jumping board, it explores different facets of urban lifestyle including culture, food, fashion, travel and style. With so many movies being easily accessible today, Cue strives for a hip and light-hearted tone to remain mainstream and popular. Following the rise and fall of the Taiwanese New Wave, perhaps, this also best reflects the state of contemporary Taiwanese cinema.
「剧场」杂志1965年1月1日在台北创刊，1968年1月15日停刊，共出版9期。它是一本分析、介绍前卫电影与前卫戏剧的刊物，但后人所津津乐道的，显然在电影部分多过戏剧。当年「剧场」杂志翻译了好几部当时被视为前卫电影、日后被公认为影史经典的电影剧本，像是雷奈（Alain Resnais）的《广岛之恋》（Hiroshima, mon amour,1959）、《去年在马伦巴》（L’Année dernière à Marienbad,1961），费里尼（Federico Fellini）的《生活的甜蜜》（La Dolce vita,1960），安东尼奥尼（Michelangelo Antonioni）的《夜》（La Notte,1960）。讽刺的是这些影片只有少部分在台北上映过，热情的影痴「望梅止渴」地藉由阅读、研究「剧场」刊出的中译剧本，伴随着想象去亲炙这些作品。因此，没看过电影却对影片内容结构了如指掌的怪异现象，也成为那个时代台湾影痴的某种特殊印记。
花个台币一百元左右、就可从成千上百的录像带或LD中挑一部在包厢看个过瘾，还付赠一杯饮料的「MTV视听中心」，是台湾1980年代后期到1990年代初的奇异风景；也是把日本卡拉OK转换成时下流行的KTV的重要创意来源。在美国的著作权法保护旋风还未吹垮台湾MTV工业前，令人难以相信但事实确凿的，几乎所有古今中外的著名电影、艺术经典、甚至连教科书都还来不及列进去的民族电影，大概都能在台北的「MTV视听中心」找得到，一间小包厢比电影系的图书馆还管用。而「新影响」即与当时名噪一时的「太阳系MTV」关系深厚（老板为同一人），找来从影评跨足导演的陈国富担任总编辑，几乎每期的重点都是导演评介，甚至配合专题推出录像带邮购，于是阿莫多瓦（Pedro Almodovar）、格林纳威（Peter Greenaway）、塔科夫斯基（Andrei Tarkovsky）这些当时还没有电影正式在台湾上映的导演，却因为「新影响」以动辄二、三十页的篇幅介绍加上录像带拷贝贩卖，自然而然成为当时影痴之间的「显学」。对求知若渴的影痴而言，并不太在意这种杂志包装录像带贩售的行为是否违法，何况「新影响」并不强迫读者购买录像带，更让愿意掏钱买片收藏的人，觉得杂志其实「做善事」多过「做生意」。