|Index||9 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In Taipei, a middle-aged real estate agent, May Lin (Yang-kuei Mei), goes
about her daily routine of putting up signs, inviting potential customers to
an open house, then sitting and waiting for them in empty apartments as the
hours drag by. Tsai Ming-liang's Vive L'Amour is an honest and beautiful
film about three lonely people whose lives become inextricably bound in a
chance encounter. Dialogue is minimal and no one speaks for the first
twenty-five minutes, creating a pervasive tone of emotional numbness.
Hsiao-kang (Kang-sheng Lee), a young gay man who sells wall space for
burials, soon finds the key to an apartment being shown by May Lin and moves
in, taking a bath, getting dressed, then almost matter of factly cutting his
wrists with a pocket knife.
When May Lin meets Ah-jung (Chao-jung Chen) a slick street vendor of women's clothes during a lunch break, they coyly size each other up, then use the apartment for casual sex. Ah-jung, unaware of Hsiao-Kang's presence, takes the key from May Lin and also moves in. The characters live an existence surrounded by silence, unwilling or unable to reach out to each other, living in the empty spaces. They spend their time aimlessly, drinking beers, smoking cigarettes, and just watching the time pass without any apparent connection to the teeming city they live in. Ming-liang's camera views the characters from a distance, at times simply watching them for minutes at a time go through a period of silent suffering. One of the most heartbreaking scenes is when Hsiao-Kang hugs and kisses a watermelon as if it were the responsive companion he so desperately needs.
When May Lin comes to the apartment to rest, the two clandestine guests forge an alliance to avoid being seen. In an unforgettable sequence, Hsiao-Kang hides under the bed masturbating while May and Ah-jung make love directly on top. After May leaves, the young man crawls into bed with the sleeping Ah-jung and creeps his way inch by inch toward the sleeping man in a scene of heartbreaking loneliness and conflicted emotions. The film ends in a five-minute close up of one of the characters sitting alone in a newly-opened park that made me reflect on similar periods of loneliness in my own life. It also caused me to wonder if our modern cities have become little more than sanctuaries for the walking dead where everyone is a stranger, crossing paths in silence without a hint of recognition of a common humanity.
One of the best of Tsai Ming-liang's glacial case studies of
contemporary isolation and alienation in Taipei/the world, VIVE L'AMOUR
is gripping in spite of it's extreme slowness (his work shares this
quality with Tarkovsky or Antonioni). Tsai's work is superficially very
chilly and ultimately heartbreaking - though Tsai also (as always)
manages to also sneak in a little deadpan humor, which in this case
includes the rather ironic translated title.
Three young, outwardly successful Taiwanese happen to cross paths - unknowingly at first - in the empty Taipei condominium one (a real estate agent) is attempting to sell. Through a bare minimum in dialogue - VIVE L'AMOUR is essentially a silent film until about 20 minutes in - Tsai charts their isolation and fumbling attempts at various kinds of human connection and finding some personal sort of peace. Tsai's scenario and characters are globalized, stripped of most marks of identity, and very much adrift, and their growth (or lack of it) is communicated through sparse forms of acting, direction and cinematography that reinvents seemingly antiquated forms of film-making (again, silent film) into a new-millennial era. In this, Tsai crafts a sort of haunted, elegaic drama that slides around the limitations of language, inhabiting a dreamlike, if also very dark, psychological territory.
Typically Tsai uses no musical score, and the dialog is very sparse, with the film favoring the natural sound of whatever environment the characters find themselves in, so the many memorable scenes do tend to sneak up on you. The finale is unforgettable.
I don't even know where to begin on Vive L'Amour. It is the second Tsai
Ming-liang film I've seen, after The Hole. I doubted that it could be as
good as The Hole, but it turned out to be an even better film. In fact, I'd
say it's pretty close to perfect. The only thing I don't like about it is
its American title - "Vive L'Amour" makes it sound like a romantic comedy
starring Gerard Depardieu. This film is about love, but not in any
I'd love to relate the plot of the film, but I think that'd ruin it quite a bit. Part of the fun of it is figuring out exactly what's going on. Those who like puzzle films will find the initial puzzle of Vive L'Amour very intriguing. Those who don't like slow-moving films should avoid it, though. A good benchmark: if you like Antonioni's films, especially L'Avventura, which is directly referenced in this film, you'll probably like it. Here's an intriguing fact about Vie L'Amour: there is not one piece of audible dialogue spoken until 21 minutes have gone by. One of the main characters does not speak until 49 minutes have passed. If you were to write out all the dialogue of the film, you could probably fit it on a single page. Tsai is simply audacious in his paucity of dialogue. And it could have easily seemed like little more than a stunt, but the characters still come off as fully developed and interesting people. The drama works wonders, and there is a lot of comedy, too. The film is also very erotic.
I really don't want to say another word about this film. I hope that any reader will have enjoyed or agreed with the numerous other reviews I have written to take my recommendation at face value. I have seen hundreds of great films, and Vive L'Amour is one of the best I have seen. Also, make sure to check out The Hole, which is also on Fox Lorber DVD. Fox Lorber has gotten a lot of undeserved criticism in the past. Their DVDs aren't always the best (they're no Criterion), but they're usually of great visual quality. They may have few extras, but extras are not always necessary. I would even suggest that Criterion sometimes stuffs their DVDs with unnecessary and low-quality material.
First, the video box is very deceptive. This film is NOT about intense,
erotic encounters with some hidden gay voyeur taking it all
Somewhere in Taipei is a nice apartment. A young gay guy, (who is lonely as hell and sells cremation urns) gets the key by bolding plucking it out of the lock while no one is looking. An attractive young female real estate agent who, while trying to sell or rent the place, also uses it, checks up on it, stops in to take a crap, or a lie down, or take a guy there for hot, but causal sex. The guy she takes up there is a well off street vendor. He gets his key by swiping it from her after the sex. It is more of a situation than a story.
Vive L'Amour takes a studied, hypernaturalistic approach that is a strong style statement in itself (an effect partly due to turning up the 'natural' sounds accompanying an action a notch or two and by not using music.) And despite her good looks and movie actress head of hair, the real estate agent is presented again and again as completely nonglamourous. She is always behaving in slightly exaggerated ways that show she is just a woman like any other. This is epitomized in the crap taking scene in the apartment, but there is also the scene where she cries: beautiful women in the movies usually cry with just their eyes, but here we get rich, rolling, mucal snorts that come straight from the nose. A lot of the film is spent following her completely unromanticized daily routine trying to sell or rent properties. As counter-point, and equally deliberately, we there are little movie touches: the big hair, all the actors are attractive, little bits of romantic/comedic chatter, the comedy/buddy goings on between the guys (who of course run into each other in the apartment--more movie comedy stuff), and so on.
In the end Tsai manages to masterfully blend these contradictory forces into a climax that interweaves three (one per character) magical cinematic moments: Tenderness, Innocence, and Sadness. Vive L'Amour is fine, intelligent and moving film making.
This film is about 2 guys and a girl, whose lives primarily intersect in
apartment that the girl, who is a real estate agent, is trying to sell.
brings guy #1, a street vendor, to the apartment for a sexual encounter,
he later ends up living there without her knowledge. Unbeknownst to both
them, guy #2, a suicidally lonely gay man, has already crashed the place.
Guy #1 and Guy#2 eventually bump into each other (it's a large apartment),
and Guy#2, in his need for companionship, becomes attracted to Guy #1,
despite the fact that Guy #1 does not possess very many redeeming
I can't say that I enjoyed this film very much. The acting was good, the directing was frank. But throughout most of the film I kept asking myself where it was going. There was very little development or dialogue. However, while I didn't particularly like watching the seemingly infinite shots, at the same time I appreciated the way that they developed the mood, perspective, and bleak tone of the film. Mind you, this didn't don on me until near the end. These 3 people were each very much alone, especially the girl and the gay guy. Alone, and yet living in a large metropolis and surrounded by people. The "climax" of the film, where the girl is walking through the park, (the most barren, dead, and desolate public park I've ever seen.), made perfect sense. The surroundings were an achingly appropriate reflection of the girl's emotional state in life and the starkness of what her outlook must have been. When she sat down on the bench and started to sob, everything just clicked. I thought to myself "My god, I know exactly how she feels." That was my big revelation with this movie, when I related to her character. And because of this, the film held a special poignance to me. While I can't say that I was entertained by this film, I can say that I was impacted. It reminded me that the point of a movie can serve a more dignified purpose than just appealing to an audience as entertainment.
This movie was truly awful. I am sorry, I gave this movie the benefit of the doubt as I watched it, but as the movie progressed I was became more and more confused. At first I attributed it to the fact that perhaps I had missed something or I wasn't paying close enough attention. That being said, afterwards I read an article discussing this movie and the Wikipedia article, and I suddenly became so angry. This movie was truly awful. Critics say it was minimalist, I say it lacked a complete plot and anyone writing positively about it simply is full of themselves. For the ignorant raters that gave this film an average rating of 3.9/5 or an 8.1/10, I see absolutely no justification for this. The lack of plot is not "high art" or "abstract" or even a symbol for anything about Taiwan. This movie was just an incomplete film that wasted two hours of my life. For the people who may disagree with my thoughts, all I can say is, if you guys enjoy the movie so much, re-watch the scene where Mei licks Ah-Rong's nipple. That was enough for me. However, it is a shame to say that the ending was even worse than that atrocity.
Yes, I timed it. It's exactly six minutes and 25 seconds of a closeup
(stationary camera) of a woman crying. She pauses once to light a new
cigarette, and then she resumes crying.
This example is designed to illustrate how tedious the movie can be. Don't get me wrong; slow is good sometimes. Ketchup, mango sorbet, a sunrise... yes, these things are best enjoyed slowly. But now imagine a spoonful of mango sorbet that just refuses to leave your spoon. You shake it, you bite at it, you pry it with your tongue, but it just won't budge.
That's when slow crosses into annoying.
Before you dismiss me as some MTV-generation ADHD kid, let me mention that two of my favourite movies are "Werckmeister Harmoniak" (camera shots that last up to 13 minutes) and Kieslowsky's "Trois Couleurs" (where we watch an old woman struggling with a rubbish bin for 2 minutes, repeated 3 times). "2001: A Space Odyssey" is another winner. And I wish "Russian Ark" could've been an hour longer. Those are all painfully slow films. But this film makes them look like the Indy 500.
Ming-liang Tsai's later work, "The Hole" is much more substantial. It's just as slow but with one important difference: "The Hole" keeps us interested with it's cryptic plot and imaginative setting. Here we have no such incentive to stay awake. The plot is banal, colours are drab, acting is concrete (deliberately, I'm sure), and the camera is as lethargic as a kid on dope, only without the potato chips.
In my opinion, the movie reaches its only high point halfway through when we are shown a very clever and poignant analogy which I won't ruin for you. It was absolutely brilliant, and it's the only reason why I'm rating this movie a 6 instead of a 3.
I think the director just pushed it one step too far with the slow pace. At first it works, but after a while--just like an old joke--it fails to carry any more punch, and it seems gratuitous and gimmicky.
My suggestion is for you to watch "The Hole" first. Even though it's done in the same slow style, it's much more challenging and intriguing (see my review of "The Hole"). If you really like that movie (and I mean REALLY like it...rating it an 8 or better) then try "Vive l'Amour". Otherwise, you might want to think twice. This movie just sucks the life out of you. And the crying scene freaked out my dog.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I enjoy a good, slow-moving drama. Christmas In August, Chungking
Express, Virgin Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, The Way Home,
Springtime in a Small Town, Hana bi, Eat Drink Man Woman, Dolls, In the
Mood for Love, and Spring Summer Fall Winter Spring are all enjoyable
films just to name a few.
Unfortunately, there is a subset of films within the drama genre that attempt to ride the coattails of good films while providing nothing of interest themselves. These are what I call IAN films "Incomprehensible Artistic Nonsense." Tsai Ming-liang is the king of this subgenre, and Vive L'Amour is his "masterpiece." In fact, this is the crème de la crème of crap-infested garbage under the guise of "art." People walk around in their apartments, drink water, stroll back and forth waiting for pay phones to become vacant, hang posters, staple papers together, go to the bathroom, eat, do pushups, have sex, slap at mosquitoes, etc. I'm not joking when I say that is an accurate synopsis of the entire film, which is the quintessential posterchild for pointless art-house trash. There is no plot, no storyline, no interesting or noteworthy events, no emotion, no meaningful dialogue, and most importantly no drama.
The most eventful scene has two people "banging" on a bed with a person masturbating underneath the mattress ironic that it's also totally tasteless and gratuitous. The relationship of the characters on the bed is practically non-existent. Tsai apparently didn't feel like communicating anything to the viewer regarding these people other than the obvious fact that they like to "bang." The person under the bed is just as one-dimensional and uninteresting. He likes to drink water, makeout with melons, and stroke himself. This is Tsai's idea of "character development." A truly misguided "entertainer" indeed.
Tsai's true contribution in Vive L'Amour is perhaps the most atrocious scene in art-house film history. He first shows the lead actress walk all the way from one end of a park to the other for 285 consecutive seconds, only to then show her cry hysterically for absolutely no reason whatsoever for another 356 consecutive seconds. The film then abruptly ends. No point. No entertainment. Just pure, concentrated torture inflicted on the viewer.
In an effort to beat a dead horse. The underlying theme of loneliness is mishandled so greatly that the only true feeling of this film is that of boredom. In fact, Kiyoshi Kurosawa provides a much better exposition on loneliness in his horror film Kairo. And guess what? It's actually INTERESTING! That film moved as slow as molasses in January, but there are better ways of addressing the concept of loneliness than the utter waste known as Vive L'Amour. Kairo is a perfect example of that.
Fans of cinema may thank Tsai Ming-liang for directing this film, as he has provided irrefutable evidence that art-house cinema can be just as poorly made as B-grade, made-for-television horror flicks. Art-house snobs have now officially lost their pedestal of self-righteousness. The quality level of your precious genre now overlaps films like Army of Darkness and gasp! Showgirls. How do you like them apples?
I suppose it's nice and trendy to see wonderful things in the absolute
emptiness of a film like this. With the sometimes pointless excesses of
many Hollywood films, we can relax and enjoy a scene devoid of explosions,
foul language, and corny one-liners. Minimalism has its place, and can be
very effective when employed properly. However, this film is not one of
Take the long scenes with no dialogue and dreary, sparse scenery. I'm sure that they must hold some great meaning and insight, because the implied message in shrouded in bafflement. The acting is poor... bland and pedestrian... and features one of the worst crying scenes in history (at the end of the film, if you can sit through it to the end). The scenery is drab, and the ridiculously long ending sequence of the girl walking through the barren park is as pleasurable as having a tooth pulled. I would call this anticlimatic, but as the film didn't build to any sort of climax whatsoever... not even in the "erotic" scenes... it would be untrue. I'm sure that there was a script employed during the filming, but with the amount of dialogue, I think it might have been written on a cocktail napkin. Basically, this film offers nothing to interest or amaze... no great story, no stunning insights, no visual drama, no excitement. Apart from two or three amusing moments, this film is a waste of two hours. A tragically boring and dreary film.
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