Saturday, June 4, 2011

Millennium Mambo

Hsiao-hsien Hou, Taiwan, 2001 (7.7*)
If you're a fan of the films of Hou or Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai, (best of which are Chungking Express and In the Mood for Love) or like me, you just like watching Taiwanese beauty Shu Qi (Hsu Chi, photo below) just walk around, you'll enjoy this film of Hou's.

Hou gives us a snapshot of the life of aimless Vicky, who does little more than hang around night clubs. She reflects back in the beginning of this on her relationship ten years earlier with Hau-Hau, a jealous house rock dj, who generally mistreats or ignores her and wants her to account for her time away from him or phone calls to others. Whenever they break up, he starts following her around again. We also see Vicky later in Japan, with a different man.

This is a not like a typical western film romance: boy meets girl, they have a relationship, then they (a) get married, or (b) part ways, end of film.. This is a segment of Vicky's life that covers roughly a decade, and we see scenes from each portion to give us a picture of her overall lifestyle. Much of the film is linked or propelled by electronic trance music, and it all fits together to create a very modern style, to me, reminiscent of Wong Kar-Wai.

Director Hou said in an interview that he wanted to show Taiwan night life and incorporate the trance music of Lim Giong (who co-wrote the music), so he used all Taiwanese actors. On the dvd, I like the longer, deleted "In Japan" segment that gives Shu some leeway as an actress to show more emotion than in the rest of the film, where she seems mostly just angered by life circumstances. She is certainly worth watching, as are all the films of Hou. He's definitely an artist, usually bringing visual poetry to the simplest of stories.

Winner of 6 awards, including a technical prize at Cannes


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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