Published Sep 01, 2001
An oddly infuriating work from Taiwan's Hou Hsiao-hsien, "Millennium Mambo" follows the story of Vicky (Shu Qi), a beautiful, slumming club-kid who lives her life waiting to escape the suffocating possessiveness and jealousy of her boyfriend, Hao Hao. Stunningly shot (every image glows and hums like neon), the colours are wonderfully rich and dark, but my god, for a film with such a character-driven focus, it consistently resists any audience identification with its protagonist. Hou avoids the personalising influence of close-ups, and every scene, even those of emotional conflict, is resolutely devoid of dramatic tension. Hou's narrative keeps telling the audience to look elsewhere for meaning, but the pretty images and the thin, insubstantial content soon exhaust your options.