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
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The version screened at the Cannes International Film Festival ran 119 minutes. Hsiao-Hsien Hou then re-cut the movie following its Cannes premiere and reduced the running time to 105 minutes. Most of the deleted footage came from the "Vicky in Japan" sequences and is included as an extra on most DVD releases. See more »
This wonderful film clings to my mind since I've seen it. This is not due to the story, but for the visual concept. At first, the story seems to be the usual fantasy insecure parents have about their teenage children getting lost in a world they don't know any more - in this case, a fragile young girl spending her time in the bars and clubs of nocturnal Taipei. But it is much more a coming-of-age story, told in a melancholy mood from a future perspective, mourning and accepting all the hardships it took. This is what the visuals of the film tell, more than the dialog or plot: Each scene is filmed in a single shot. Hou, or rather Mark Li, used available light most of the time, which actually produces meaning here: The scenes in bars and clubs are shot using very light-sensitive, so images are very grainy, dark, but warm and very color-intensive - one seems to be inside a protective womb, which becomes gradually oppressive. The forces that keep the girl inside are represented by her neurotic boy friend, who watches her constantly and keeps her from making exams.
After she becomes a stripper, she meets Jack, a gangster but very decent guy who gradually leads her out of this world - in one scene he actually drives her out of a dark tunnel into bright daylight in his car. The outside scenes, given less sensitive film stock, are much clearer, but it's winter most of the time - contrary to the bar scenes it's cold, gray and white, but clear. The ending promises a life in the outside world, with occasional relief provided by movies. Shouldn't we all appreciate this? (... and the soundtrack is wonderful...)
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