Hou does not disguise his gratitude to Ozu, Cafe Lumiere having been conceived as a tribute to the minimalist master. Hou's Ozu-influenced visual aesthetic is hypnotic and seductive - if you are into that kind of thing. Static camera, long takes, the eschewing of close-ups: these elements can combine powerfully in some films, such as Ming-liang Tsai's What Time is it There? or Koreda's Wonderful Life. However, when the poetry is absent, you have mind-numbing tedium, such as Aoyama's Eureka.
Unfortunately, Goodbye South, Goodbye falls into Eureka territory. The fifty -second shots of tarmac rolling by reminds me of what happens when the kids get hold of the video camera on the family outing. I kind of felt what Hou was after when the three protagonists ride their scooters and joke that Big Brother's might explode, there was a moment when their rootlessness and ill-discipline was encapsulated in the frame. But it was fleeting, glimpsed and then gone. Everything around it was tedium, and difficult to follow tedium to boot.
The composition of the frames is flat and uninspiring. The acting may be profound, but who can tell when the actors are relegated to a small corner of the frame, often shrouded in darkness, and/or mumbling their lines with their backs to camera. When Flatly gets rushed, beaten and handcuffed by his cousin, I want to see the expression on his face. When the negotiations to release the hostages are happening, I want to see if the look in their eyes matches the words coming out of their mouths.
I get that it is about nihilistic existence, ennui and all that. But I didn't feel it. I watch movies to feel something. There are a million ways to be bored in life, I prefer film watching to be an exception. I can concede that this film might work on the big screen, but the DVD was a turn-off.
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