Millennium Mambo Movie

Feeling a bit nostalgic for Taiwan, I ordered Hou Hsio-hsien’s Millennium Mambo on NetFlix. It was the first time I have seen this Cannes Film Festival winner, by “one of the greatest living film makers” (

This has to be one of the most boring, over-rated & over-hyped flims of all time. It would seem that lao-wai audiences (and reviewers), starved for a intimate glimpse of exotic Asia, and a escape from the formulae of Hollywood, find this film enchanting. I submit that anoyone who has lived in Taiwan for any amount of time see it for what it is… tripe.

Sorry, this mini-review is several years too late, but had to vent.

Actually, Millenium Mambo was rather tepidly received among the hard-core Hou Hsiao-Hsien fans. That opening shot of Shu Qi walking through a pedestrian tunnel in Jilong was magical, but the movie went downhill after that.

My favorite Hou film by far is The Puppetmaster. It’s a bit hard-core (basically 3 hours of long shots), but it’s absolutely brilliant in the way that it mixes up interviews, historical recreations, and fictional stories.

Yes, Puppet Master is great. As is, Good Bye South Good Bye, and City of Sadness (the movie that put Jyo-Fen on the map)… but Millennium just struck me as… gratuitously lauded by reviewers from the West who somehow find endless shots of impetuous, shallow shao-jies lighting up and smoking cigarettes and saying “Ni ga ma?” all the time (like Hsu-Qi’s character) somehow alluring and artsy. Reviewers who somehow feel the need to be apologists for the film, acknowledge that there is nothing to grab onto with the characters, and point instead to it’s visual beauty - but, beyond the opening scene that you mention and the shots in Hokaido, this one just does not do it for me. Not this time, IMHO. And then, if you take the angle that this is essentially a film about nothing - not plot driven, nor character driven, and it’s not exceptional as a visual work either… what’s left is… the winner of the Cannes Film Festival. Go figure.

For the ultimate minimalist film… sparse dialog, very simple story line, incredibly visual, check out Anh Hung Tran’s L’odeur de la papaye verte (The Scent of Green Papaya - now that movie will blow you away, even though, at essence it is as simple and paired down as you can get. And to think, the whole flim was made on a sound stage in Paris, not in Saigon, makes the achivement even more impressive.

Alidarbac… I just noticed your Avatar is a still from Tsai Ming-Liang’s Rebel’s of the Neon God. Just saw that the other day, too (also for the first time). For me it is a much stronger film. And very nostalgic for me… as the setting (1992) conicides with my heyday in Taiwan. (Kind of reminds you how grim Taipei was back when the city was ripped up for the MRT construction) Again, a very sparse film, but somehow it suceeds in making us actually care about the characters, and thus the film, where “Mambo” just doesn’t.

Shame you guys don’t have NetFlix in Taiwan - it is awesome. Tailormade film festivals, whenever you want.

[Edit - Just had a look at your photos - very good, there, Alidarbac. Very good eye - love the candids. Too many of the posters in the Daily Photo section are into rather cold urban architechtural forms, your photography seems to be very much about life and people. Cool]

I couldn’t agree more. Netflix is the only way to go here in the US, even though there are several movies I can’t order (e.g., Mizoguchi’s Sansho the Bailiff and Le Pactes des Loupes come to mind). It’s still waaay better than, say, Blockbuster. Way-fucking-a better. :laughing:

I like Millenium Mambo. The acid test, for me, is: do you care about the characters enough to finish the film? The answer to this question asked about MM is, for me, unequivocally yes. When you think about movie production, that ain’t all that easy to do, can’t be.

It ain’t a perfect movie, it tries way too hard to be blatantly arty – there’s a lot wrong with the movie, maybe beginning with the breathy voiceovers (maybe) – but somehow it still passes the basic test, imho.

Actually, my avatar is from The River, which is one of my favorite Tsai Ming-Liang movies. But Rebel of the Neon Gods was pretty good as well. I believe it was Tsai’s first movie, so he hadn’t developed that really cold detached style yet, so it was a bit more traditional in terms of character development and advancing the plot.

IMO, the best place to be a cineaste is mainland China, with a gigantic selection of ridiculously cheap pirated DVDs. Unfortunately, because of the cheap manufacturing process and/or the prime mold growing conditions here, a lot of my 3-4 year old pirated DVDs are crapping out an hour and a half into the movie i.e. right before the ending.

Millenium Mambo

Shu Qi, 舒淇, really enjoyed this movie, soundtrack nice, I like the first snow scene, good actress. I could easily watch again.

Little bit of insight into party culture and why girls sometimes work or continue to work in KTV bars even if they don’t want.

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