Millennium Mambo

Millennium Mambo (2001)

Genres - Drama, Romance  |   Sub-Genres - Urban Drama, Coming-of-Age, Romantic Drama  |   Release Date - Dec 19, 2003 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 101 min.  |   Countries - France, Taiwan  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Jonathan Crow

Millennium Mambo is easily one of Hou Hsiao-Hsien's most challenging and intellectual works in an oeuvre of consistently challenging and intellectual films. Like his 1998 work Goodbye South, Goodbye, Hou's vision of modern Taiwanese society is one of constant distraction -- cell phones, pounding techno music, and drugs of every ilk from speed to alcohol to tobacco. Yet whereas Goodbye balanced the crazed schemes of the protagonists with the images of nature, Mambo offers no such release. Set indoors and bathed in an unearthly neon blue, the film envisions Taiwan's youth as being trapped in this world of immediate gratification yet unable to exert any kind of personal restraint. Hou's use of time is staggeringly innovative -- it jumps around so frequently in this film that it is almost impossible to construct a linear narrative yet the audience never loses the emotional core of the story. Yet for those cinematic souls willing to brave such challenges, they will find Millennium Mambo a breathtaking tour de force. Hou Hsiao-Hsien was voted the most important filmmaker of the 1990s by the International Society of Cinematheques and this film proves why.