|Index||9 reviews in total|
Tsai Ming-Liang doesn't make movies per se. He takes slices
out of people's lives and puts them up on the screen for
This movie is an example of this style of film-making seen through the eyes of a group of teens in the city.
The meaning of the movie is open to discussion. My take is that the dark tone of this movie reflects the dark tone of its characters lives. For them Taipei is the beginning and the end. Where else have they ever seen, where else would they go? No careers, no connections, no future, no love, no hope. Nothing but work, study, drinking, failed relationships and ennui.
I don't share Tsai's bleak appraisal of the city. It is every bit as bad and grungy as he paints it (I _lived_ in the apartment with sandals floating across the floor!) but it is also much brighter, much better, and much more hopeful at the same time.
The most powerful thing about this movie is the extent to which it draws you in. I first saw this at the Seattle film festival. I was pulled in to the movie so completely I expected to smell Chinese sausages and _chou dofu_ when I left the theatre.
'Rebels of the Neon God' is Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-liang's debut
film. It is a wholly consuming film that leaves much to the imagination
at the end. It is well-directed and looks into real life (in Taipei) in
its most natural form (although it is supposed to be much brighter and
hopeful than Tsai makes it out to be). 'Rebels' moves along much faster
than any of Tsai's other feature film which was actually quite
surprisingly. I feel that Tsai's films should be watched in
chronological order of when he made them because they tell a story of
one person Hsaio Kang (always played by the wonderful Lee Kang-sheng)
as he grows the camera follows him through life's journey. This
journey is not always easy as he is depicted as an outsider.
In 'Rebels of the Neon God', Hsaio is a motivated tutorial student who leaves school to seek revenge on hoodlums who wrecked his father's taxi cab rear-view mirror. He also leaves school and pockets the money because he is sick of dealing with his parents. Hsaio and his father do not have that great of a relationship and his mother thinks it is because a woman she met said he was the reincarnation of a god Norcha. Norcha was a famous god in Chinese mythology, supposedly he was a trouble-making child who "ended up locked in his father's magical pagoda". This seems like an appropriate title but 'Rebels of the Neon God' is right behind it the former more subtly fittingly though and the latter sounds better. Ah Tze and Ah Bing are two petty who live in an apartment building which always floods due to an annoying floor drain which doesn't actually serve its purpose. Ah Kuei is a girl who lives in their apartment and flirts with them (more so she hits on Ah Tze).
The same theme runs through all of Tsai's film a lack of knowing how to communicate and actually communicating. In this film it is more straightforward and this is probably his most accessible film. There is one scene in which Hsaio kills a cockroach by stabbing it with his compass point. Hsaio throws the dead insect into the wind but then notices it resurfaced on the other side of the window. When he notices this he tries to swat the cockroach but hits the window pane too hard and breaks it. The camera moves down to what he was studying and blood starts to drip on his school papers. He then goes to the bathroom to wash his hand and pamper his now wounded hand but not without his mother inquiring "You have nothing better to do with yourself".
For the most part the actors play their parts very well. Ah Kuei is good for the cute but insignificant girl whom Ah Tze and Ah Bing chase after and she chases after them. Chen Chao-jung is handsome as Ah Tze, one of the petty criminals who has trouble communicating with one of the women he slept with when he wakes up. Jen Chang-bin plays Ah Bing well but his character sadly gets hurt in the end and it really isn't his fault at all. Lee Kang-sheng is perfect as Hsiao Kang by viewing Tsai's other films it is obvious he has mastered the art of acting and putting on the bleakest face possible.
This film actually reminded me of one of my other favourite filmmakers, Wong Kar Wai. Wong Kar Wai's feature debut, 'As Tears Go By', felt amateurish and it felt like Wong Kar Wai had not fully realized his potential as a director and the theme that runs through his films. Every debut is a rough start but both of these filmmakers first feature films showed that they would both grow to become some of the best contributors to cinema around later in their cinematic careers.
Tsai Ming-liang's 'Rebels of the Neon God' captures youth in Taipei absolutely brilliant without all those long takes featured in his future films. Water is a very important part of this film look out for rain sequences and flooded apartment floors. 'Rebels' is much easier to watch than Tsai's other films because the camera moves more and it just seemed much more interesting. I think if I watched all of Tsai Ming-liang's films in order it would have worked out better because they basically show what a great filmmaker he was grown into.
From the beginning of the film we are aware of the conflict between
father and son. When the handsome motorcyclist breaks his father's taxi
mirror Hsiao Kang (Kang-sheng Lee) is fascinated by him in a love/hate
way. His overwhelming mother who conceives of him as a reincarnation of
the God Norcha drives him out of the house by her ranting and effects
the necessary break with his father. He redeems his school tuition
dives into the nightlife of the luminous,illusionary city.. He follows
Ah Tze (Chao-jung Chen) and his brother Ah Bing (Chang-bin Jen) in
their nightly decadent rounds and plans revenge. When he finally
achieves this revenge, by trashing Ah Tze's motorcycle he is not quite
satisfied. Ah Tze and his brother are beaten up. They are plunged into
misery and despair. Hsiao Kang goes to a brothel but cannot bring
himself to meet with a prostitute. The castration resulting from his
break with his father is at least temporarily in effect.
What is so great about this film is precisely its rich imagery and the fascinating performances. It is mesmeric and moving. In the later films many of the actors/characters will have further more developed existences, but in Rebel of the Neon Gods we are introduced to a trope on the James Dean "Rebel Without a Cause" film in a compelling series of images. A fine, perhaps a great film.
Having lived in Taiwan from the mid eighties to the late nineties, this
film showed how Taipei was like during the early nineties. That was
when the MRT was still under construction, and everything looks a
little bit old, filthy, run down, and crowded. This film accurately
portrayed the lives of the youth living at that time, such as hanging
out all day in the arcade, obsession with motorbike racing, and for
some going to the after school tutor seminars. when watching this film
a wave of nostalgia hit me as I realized that Taiwan now is a lot more
polished and modernized, and not as gritty as before, which I have
The film showed the "little people" of a big city. They are often ignored, alienated, and living day by day in the fringe of a faceless and monolithic society.
On a more obvious level of multiple layers, a crucial, cultural point of significance seems lost in translation. As Rebels of the neon god comprise the sense of urban alienation, tradition and cultural adaptation, secularization, the decaying city and loss of identity, the original title translates literally Teenage Nezha. And as implied by his frustrated mother, the main character of Hsiao Kang bares resembling "qualities" to that of the rebel god, born into a human family and in constant opposition. While most reincarnations of Nezha grow additional limbs for the purpose of eradicating their father, Hsiao's idle hands become the playground for the prankster god. Sparked by an act of force, the two main plots of the film intertwine, and are further fueled by the returning violence. After their encounter in the arcade, Hsiao can be seen playing the same shoot-em-up as the one Ah Tze played while sitting next to him, symbolizing a change in character and the unraveling of the revenge. The directors returning use of water as ever-present, controlling element of nature, suppressing spaces of confined and human, primal behavior sets up a hierarchy of command in the metropolitan chaos of Taipei.
Acclaimed director Tsai Ming-liang's directorial debut is a fascinating
and intriguing story about the rebellious nature of youth, and the
emptiness and meaninglessness felt by them. It's also the first of many
collaborations between the director and actor Lee Kang-sheng.
Water, water everywhere. Just with regular places like malls, arcades, hotel rooms and houses, Tsai creates a recognizable urban environment, where the rebellious actions of few individuals form a complete cycle. From the James Dean poster to the mention of reincarnation of a rebellious God, and even the Mandarin and English titles of the film, the movie doesn't shy away from telling what it's about. And in its subtle way, it also tries to explore the reasons behind it. Like the cram school one of the protagonists (Hsiao Kang) is sent to, cities are crammed with people in the same way, but despite that, people feel more disconnected than ever. From the phone dating thing service in the story to our present-day social networking sites, the story tries to emphasize that with urbanization, humans have lost touch with direct interactions and brotherhood.
The bleak tone may put some people off, but it actually adds to the tone of the story. Tsai here gives us a slice of these young lives, and asks us to contemplate on 'Why do we do the things we do?' All the actors are cast well, and they do a commendable job.
NOTE: It's preferable if one watches Tsai Ming-liang's films in order because the character Hsiao-kang (Lee Kang-sheng) appears in most of his films, this being the first. The order might help in exploring and understanding the character much better.
Young disaffected people in Taipeitwo friends steal a lot of coins from telephones and other things. They also play a lot of videogames, and ride motorbikes and drink. One of them lives in an apartment that is always inexplicably flooded. A pretty girl, Ah Kuei (Yu-Wen Wang) takes up with one of them, and there is engagement and disengagement and anomie and sadness, though at the end they don't seem to give up on each other. Another boy drops out of school and follows the crooks, and sabotages a motorcycle, and other such thingshis father drives a taxi, and his mother worries because she's been told he's a reincarnation of the god Norcha. The city itself is incredibly busy, cars and motorcycles and crowds everywhere. There's a lot of rain in this movie, too. It's a melancholy scene
Anyone who has ever visited Taipei would agree that this movie is so real by
picturing out the decadent city.
The city is getting more terrible with people who deeply believe in fake
democracy but ignore their environmental improving.
Our young heroes are victims like all the living victims one will easily
find in streets of Taipei.
In his first film, international "arty" director Tsai Ming-liang tells what is apparently, for him, a fairly accessible tale about two fake thugs, the sometimes-girlfriend of one of them, and a younger teenager who has a strange preoccupation with the three of them. He does so largely with long, one-take, unmoving shots (when the action moves into the background, the camera usually doesn't follow). It's not always easy to understand the relationship between these various characters, which is just as well, as it is pretty languid and obscure in general; teasing out the nuances of these relationships was my main source of interest while watching this film. Overall, it seems to be worth a try, but not worth a recommendation. I got a generally positive impression from it (meaning that it didn't just totally irritate me), but it didn't provoke a strong visceral aesthetic appreciation (that's a little paradoxical I guess) that I get from my favorite "art films." I'm tempted to watch one of Tsai's later, "better-known" (relatively speaking) films, but I'm not sure that I'm that enamored with his visual style or his style of storytelling (as opposed to, say, that of Wong Kar-Wai).
|Plot summary||Plot synopsis||Ratings|
|Awards||External reviews||Plot keywords|
|Main details||Your user reviews||Your vote history|