June 24, 2005
Millennium Mambo (2001) is a stylish look at the life of a young woman named Vicky (Qi). The captivating establishing shot is of her walking through a covered walkway with fluorescent lights captured in slow motion like in a dream. She looks back at the camera as if someone is following her before she disappears down a flight of stairs. It is a haunting opening image that sets the tone for the rest of the movie.
Vicky and her friends go to night clubs and have a good time like many young people her age. The movie follows her life as she hangs out with friends, has love affairs and tries to figure out what she wants out of life. She resides in that tumultuous, uncertain age where you’re done with high school but are not quite a part of the adult world. Her boyfriend, Hao-Hao (Chun-Hao), is paranoid and insanely jealous. He goes through her things, convinced that she is cheating on him. Their on again, off again relationship runs throughout the film.
The movie depicts Vicky’s life in a way that makes you feel as if you’re almost intruding on it. This is accomplished in the way scenes are framed. For example, Vicky and boyfriend argue and the camera observes the heated exchange from another room, as if we were peeking in through another doorway, spying on them. The camera doesn’t move much, often taking a fixed position as it observes what happens in a given scene.
Shu Qi, with her stunning good looks, has a captivating screen presence which director Hou Hsiao-Hsien captures with his camera. In one scene, her white bra glows like neon against her skin as her boyfriend tries, in vain, to seduce her. Hsiao-Hsien does a great job of using neon in the scenes that take place in darkened bars and night clubs—they often provide the scene’s primary light source.
“Extended Scene – Vicky in Japan” is a 13 minute clip of her life in Japan, specifically the snow swept area of Xijiang.
“Interview with Director Hou Hsiao-Hsien” examines his desire to shoot a movie in Taipei—something he had never done before. He was also interested in incorporating its nightlife. He talks eloquently about what makes a movie work and its elements.
There are also trailers and filmographies for Shu Qi and Hsiao-Hsien.
Millennium Mambo is an interesting slice-of-life film that honestly and realistically depicts a young woman’s life.