"The Terrorizers" is I think one of Edward Yang's most successful films. In fact I like it even more than "Yi Yi", his 2000 Cannes-winning 3-hour feature, his last. The thing about "The Terrorizers" is that it's constructed like a gigantic jigsaw puzzle, into which pieces fall gradually into place as the movie unfolds. The pacing and construction of this movie is as far away from Classic Hollywood Narrative as imaginable. That's why many American viewers (one IMDb reviewer kept insisting he got it - but it's clear he hadn't) are lost. The impulse of the narrative is trying to make sense of what is happening and - towards the end - finding if, as the novel suggests, art will mirror life. It is thus a brilliant suspense movie too. The best I can compare it to are to the 1970s French "Nouvelle Vogue" cinema and Antonioni himself which Yang is influenced by. Take something like Alain Resnais's self-reflexivity and cross it with Antonioni themes and you are likely to get a hybrid that is close to "The Terrorizers".
The film recreates urban Taipei life in the 1980s very closely - how people talked then and the likes - but that is not its primary appeal. If at the end of the film you do "get" this post-modernist-pastiche-like work, as its last jigsaw piece fall into place, you will definitely feel something wrenching into your rational mind. Maybe a few years later, when someone mentions this movie, it will ring a bell in you. I gave "The Terrorizers" a full 10/10 rating because I believe it is already a classic of the New Taiwan Cinema. Tsai Ming-liang's "Vive l'amour" (1994), though it won the Golden Lion, isn't more brilliant that this predecessor made eight years earlier (not to mention Yang has less fetish fixations than Tsai, who can appear indulgent). "The Terrorizers" can best be called an explosive, subversive work hidden behind a deceptive facade of urbane restraint.
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