Intended as the concluding film in the trilogy on the modern history of Taiwan began with Beiqing Chengshi (1989), this film reveals the story through three levels: a film within a film as ... See full summary »
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's latest film, I saw as part of Village Voice's Best Undistributed Films of 2001 series, feels like a mixing and modulation of his last three: a young woman's abortive but contemplative contemporary existence (GOOD MEN, GOOD WOMEN), a moment-by-moment addiction to thrill-seeking (GOODBYE SOUTH GOODBYE) and a love affair entombed in drugs (FLOWERS OF SHANGHAI) all figure into Hou's attempt to lyricize the moment we are living in -- NOW. The result is a film that seems immensely fascinated in each moment it is capturing -- luminescent bodies dancing in an underground rave; a man inhaling and exhaling smoke from a makeshift bong; the absolute wonder of one's facial imprint in an immaculately white snowbank -- until those moments lead to other moments of inescapable banality or dread. Hou enhances this addiciton-to-the-moment with a voice-over that takes place in 2010, giving away plot points before they happen on-screen; since narrative convention no longer matters, the result is an even more intense experience of the moment tied in with an odd sensation of retrospection (no one messes around with the concept of history more than Hou). The give-and-take of this kind of project is that not everything will succeed on a dramatic level, but the experience of this film (and I do mean *experience*) is too exquisite to be denied. There are no less than half a dozen moments in this film, easily the most sumptuously photographed of the year, whose sheer beauty in harmonizing time and image are timeless treasures: objects and settings seem to take on a life of their own, before they are inevitably swept under the ever-moving carpet of time.
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