IMDb > The River (1997)
He liu
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The River (1997) More at IMDbPro »He liu (original title)

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The River -- US Home Video Trailer from Wellspring


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Release Date:
7 August 1997 (Taiwan) See more »
In Taiwan, Xiao-kang, a young man in his early 20s, lives with his parents in near silence. He is plagued by severe neck pain... See more » | Add synopsis »
Plot Keywords:
6 wins & 7 nominations See more »
User Reviews:
An undiscovered masterpiece See more (21 total) »


  (in credits order) (complete, awaiting verification)
Tien Miao ... Father

Kang-sheng Lee ... Hsiao-Kang
Yi-Ching Lu ... Mother (as Hsiao-Ling Lu)

Ann Hui ... Director (as Anne Hui)
Shiang-chyi Chen ... Girl
Chao-jung Chen ... Anonymous Man
Shiao-Lin Lu ... Mother's lover (as Long Chang)
Kuei-Mei Yang ... Girl in Hotel

Directed by
Ming-liang Tsai 
Writing credits
(in alphabetical order)
Ming-liang Tsai 
Yi-chun Tsai 
Pi-ying Yang 

Produced by
Shun-Ching Chiu .... producer
Hu-pin Chung .... executive producer
Li-Kong Hsu .... producer
Shih-Yuan Lin .... line producer
Shih-Fang Wang .... associate producer
Cinematography by
Pen-Jung Liao 
Film Editing by
Sheng-Chang Chen 
Chen-Ching Lei 
Production Design by
Tony Lan 
Art Direction by
Pao-Lin Lee 
Set Decoration by
Nien-Chiu Cheng 
Mu-Shan Kuo 
Costume Design by
Yu Wang 
Makeup Department
Zenia Chou .... hair stylist
Zenia Chou .... makeup artist
Pei-Wen Yen .... additional hair stylist
Pei-Wen Yen .... additional makeup artist
Production Management
Chih-ming Huang .... production manager
Hui-Chin Lin .... production manager
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Pei-Chun Chen .... assistant director
Ming-tai Wang .... assistant director
Sound Department
Din-I Hu .... foley artist
Yuan-Feng Tsao .... foley artist
Ching-an Yang .... production sound mixer
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Marie Chao .... wardrobe mistress
Other crew
San-Ling Chang .... overseas coordinator
Helen Dei .... script supervisor
Yi-Mei Luo .... overseas coordinator

Production CompaniesDistributors

Additional Details

Also Known As:
"He liu" - Taiwan (original title)
See more »
115 min | Germany:116 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.85 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Filming Locations:

Did You Know?

The director of the movie in which Xiao-Keng floats in the river is played by real-life Hong Kong director Ann Hui.See more »
Girl:Hsiao-kang, I want to go pee. Could you turn off the lights?
[Hsiao-kang turns off the lights]
Girl:The curtains, too.
See more »
Movie Connections:


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18 out of 20 people found the following review useful.
An undiscovered masterpiece, 8 November 1999
Author: Duree from New York

There is a great deal about this movie which is going to bother audiences with short attention spans. The director Tsai Ming-Liang has a trademark style that is not to everyone's taste: long, static scenes; no background music; and dark, unsentimental realism. All of these elements are present here as they were in his much better-known film "Vive l'Amour."

As fine as that film was, this one is even finer, and much more harrowing. An aimless young man runs into an old fling who happens to be working on a film set. He goes one day to watch the filming and the director, who is trying to film a scene of a corpse floating down a river, is having trouble with the dummy they're using to play the corpse. The director talks the young man into playing the corpse. He hesitates, as the river is clearly polluted to ridiculously toxic levels, but the desperate director is persuasive enough to convince him that everything is going to be all right as long as he takes a shower afterward.

In the days and weeks that follow, the young man develops a tic that steadily develops into severe spasms and partial paralysis in his neck and shoulder. Director Tsai presumes the audience is intelligent enough to see the connection between the polluted river and the sudden neurological catastrophe, and never makes the cause of the illness explicit.

The young man's life steadily unravels. He goes to Western-style doctors; he goes to Traditional Chinese Medicine practictioners who violently massage him, poke him with needles, force him to consume revolting medicinal broths, and perform various rituals to scare off the evil spirits. Nothing works, many of the healers are quacks, and the hopelessness of his situation settles upon the viewer like a radioactive cloud.

The rest of his family is only slightly better off. His father is a closeted gay who relentlessly cruises and constantly gets rebuffed. His mother, for obvious reasons, is sexually frustrated. They barely know how to communicate with one another and the son's worsening condition merely exacerbates the fissures that already existed in the family. One top of that, their house is leaking water and the ceiling is on the verge of collapse.

There are horror films which frighten us with supernatural forces and crazed psychos, frighten us with things that hardly exist or which most people never encounter, and then there those movies which present the far more terrifying horror of real calamaties that befall real people every day: chronic illness, environmental catastrophe, familial dissolution, hopelessness, depression. Such films are tremendously unpopular for one very simple reason: they tell the truth, a truth which practically everybody would much rather pretend doesn't exist. Even when such disasters are presented to us in film and literature, there is often a tendency to try to soften the blow by sugar-coating it with some kind of hope, redemption, turn-around, religious awakening, catharsis, etc. This film does no such thing: it tells a believable story and follows it through to its logical "conclusion"--the realization that there are some things from which one will never recover, that there are some cases in life where there is no hope. There are very few people who can stomach such a bitter truth, but that doesn't make it any less true.

Only a very brave and talented artist can present a story like this without descending into sentimentality on the one hand, or schadenfreude on the other. Tsai forces us to observe carefully, and observation is the first step on the road to compassion and understanding. He sees the pathos of the situation but also its black irony and humor. What's more, in this little story about a handful of ruined lives, he has found a parable that applies to the larger world, one which forever seems to teeter on the brink of destruction, most of the time at its own hands.

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