Taiwanese actor Mark Chao reacts to questions during a media event in the lead up to the premiere of his new film entitled "Love" in Taipei, Taiwan, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012. The romantic drama "Love" opens on Valentine's Day, Feb. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) -- Taiwan and China may be drawing ever closer after decades of estrangement, but a pair of star-crossed lovers from opposite sides of the Taiwan Strait encounter huge difficulties in communicating with each other in a new Taiwanese film.
"Love," directed by Niu Chen-zer, tells the story of a young Taiwanese businessman who meets a single mother from Beijing while looking to acquire a home in the Chinese capital.
Xiao Yeh, played by Chao Wei, one of China's leading actresses, at first feels overwhelmed by the relative sophistication of businessman Ma Ko, played by Taiwan's Mark Chao.
The cross-strait culture gap is a major theme in people-to-people relations between Taiwan and the mainland, which split amid civil war in 1949 but have drawn closer in recent years, as the democratic island seeks new opportunities for its high-tech products in China's lucrative markets.
With much higher incomes and a far greater exposure to the West and Japan, many Taiwanese regard mainlanders as a bit rough at the edges, and tend to look down on them.
But love finds a way in "Love," as Ma Ko develops sympathy for Xiao Yeh's difficulties in raising a young son on her own, and the three morph into a caring and mutually supportive family.
Other romances are also portrayed in "Love," which with a 300 million New Taiwan dollar ($10 million) price tag is considered a relatively extravagant undertaking on the island of 23 million people. In one, a high-end Taiwanese entertainer played by Shu Qi takes an improbable plunge with a stuttering hotel clerk played by Ethan Ruan.
For director Niu, "Love" represents the latest iteration of a cinematic career that began with his appearance on the silver screen as a 9-year-old child actor.
He moved from acting to directing in the late 1990s, but didn't hit it big until 2010, when his gangster movie "Monga" emerged as one of the year's surprise hits. Ruan and Chao also starred in that film.
Niu sees "Love" as another milestone in the long march of the Taiwan film industry back to respectability, after a spectacular flameout in the 1990s sullied the international reputation it had gained over the previous two decades.
"We lived through all those tough years of a stagnant film industry, so we cherish all the more the new opportunities we have now," he said.
Nu said Taiwan and China should work to tighten their budding filmmaking collaboration, drawing on their common history and the inspiration derived from overcoming decades of mutual hostility amid their recent political and economic rapprochement.
"We share the same culture, and have the same blood and the same passion for filmmaking," he said.
"Love" premieres in Taiwan on Friday before opening in Hong Kong and China.
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