Millennium Mambo

Not much happens on the surface of Hou Hsiao hsien's latest film, a black-lit, Taipei nocturne shot in velvety tones of purple and black by ace cinematographer Mark Lee Ping-bing (IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE). Nevertheless, it can break your heart. The year is 2001, and as the rest of the world looks forward to a new millennium, Vicky's (Shu Qi) future looks a...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Not much happens on the surface of Hou Hsiao hsien's latest film, a black-lit, Taipei nocturne shot in velvety tones of purple and black by ace cinematographer Mark Lee Ping-bing (IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE). Nevertheless, it can break your heart. The year is 2001, and as the rest of the world looks forward to a new millennium, Vicky's (Shu Qi) future looks a lot like her past. Originally hailing from Keelung, Vicky now lives in the capital city with her controlling boyfriend, Hao-hao (Tuan Chun-hao), an aspiring DJ and speed freak who spends most of his time in their cramped apartment, spinning discs, freebasing dope and playing video games with his friends. Worried that she'll one day leave him, Hao keeps Vicky on a tight leash: He forced her to drop out of high school by causing Vicky to miss her final exam, and routinely checks Vicky's credit- and phone-card receipts for clues as to where she's been and to whom she's been talking. Vicky, who's been partying hard since she was 16 and now spends her nights at Taipei's trendy techno-bars, has tried to leave more than once, but each time Hao tracks her down and pulls her back in. Neither Vicky nor Hao has a proper job, and Vicky promises herself that once the NT$500,000 in her bank account is gone, she'll leave for good. In the meantime, Vicky gets a job at an upscale hostess bar where she befriends Jack (Jack Kao), an ambitious gangster who could be a way out of this dim world where everything moves at double speed, but no one actually gets anywhere. Long a favorite among filmmakers and cineastes, Hou is consistently named in the same breath as the finest filmmakers of his generation, but amazingly, this is the first of Hou's to receive a theatrical release in the United States. (His more recent films are currently available on video and DVD.) Hou's languorous style — long takes in medium and long shot — and his films' substance — Taiwanese identity in the face of a Chinese past and a Western-dominated future — have left distributors uncertain of his popular appeal outside of Taiwan. There's really no need to worry: There's something universal and deeply moving about Vicky's predicament, and the film's sensuous, chilled-out gloss is the apogee of cinematic cool. (In Mandarin, with English subtitles.)

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  • Released: 2001
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Not much happens on the surface of Hou Hsiao hsien's latest film, a black-lit, Taipei nocturne shot in velvety tones of purple and black by ace cinematographer Mark Lee Ping-bing (IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE). Nevertheless, it can break your heart. The year is 20… (more)

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