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Taipei. A voice off-camera looks back ten years to 2000, when Vicky was in an on-again off-again relationship with Hao-Hao. She's young, lovely, and aimless. He's a slacker. Cigarettes and alcohol fuel her nights. We see bits of her life: when Hao-Hao steals his father's Rolex and the police detain them; when she gets a job as a club hostess, where she meets Jack, who becomes her patron and protector; when Hao-Hao comes to the club, insisting on talking to her; when she visits Yubari, Japan, for its film festival in the dead of winter; when Jack must go to Japan to straighten out trouble caused by one of his acolytes. Does Vicky have any expectations? Does time simply pass? Written by
Hou Hsiao-Hsien researches his projects meticulously. For Millennium Mambo, largely set in the hyper-charged twilight world of the Taipei rave scene, he threw himself into youth culture. He hung out at the local discos and even experimented with ecstasy. See more »
I saw this movie at Vancouver International Film Festival. As typical of a HHH movie showing, some audiences walked out, which means it is slow-paced. Again with his customary long shots, all the acting and actions appear quite realistic. Jack Kao is convincing and cool as always. Shu Qi brings a credible portrayal to a not-so-interesting character. And the movie has a lyrical feel (especially the opening tracking shot and the snow scenes), accompanied nicely by the atmospheric theme music.
However, the two main characters just don't have appealing personalities. Like the characters in "South Goodbye South", both Vicky and Hao are restless, aimless & not very bright. (Lifeless) Rebels without a cause. I am wondering whether this is how Hou and Chu (the screenwriter) perceive the twentysomethings in Taiwan. Since Vicky is narrating from 10 years into the future, I do realize she will mature. Her transformation that starts here was not shown convincingly though. I also know that this is the first of a series of films on this decade, but it doesn't feel fully realized on its own.
I also have a slight problem with the narration preceding the real events. It makes the expected events boring, when the real events don't bring anything extra (e.g. contradiction, irony) to the narration.
Compared to "South Goodbye South", this one may not be as ambitious thematically. While "South Goodbye South" has a lot of boredom and dread (possibly intentionally so), I like the poetic, reflective and semi-nostalgic mood of "Mambo" much more.
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