Combustible Celluloid
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With: Yang Kuei-mei, Lee Kang-sheng, Chen Chao-jung, Lu Yi-ching
Written by: Tsai Ming-liang, Tsai Yi-chun, Yang Pi-ying
Directed by: Tsai Ming-liang
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: Mandarin, with English subtitles
Running Time: 118
Date: 09/02/1994

Vive L'Amour (1994)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Apartment Simplex

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Tsai Ming-liang's second feature film established him as a major talent to watch, and — along with Hou Hsiao-hsien and Edward Yang — one of the key figures of the Taiwanese New Wave. Many of his hallmarks are already here, including long takes, minimal dialogue, and even a use of water. Tsai's regular leading man Hsiao-kang (Lee Kang-sheng) plays an ossuary salesman who discovers the key to an empty apartment and steals it. He goes inside and contemplates killing himself. Then, beautiful real estate agent May Lin (Yang Kuei-mei) catches the eye of dress seller Ah-jung (Chen Chao-jung) and they head back to the same apartment for sex. Eventually all three characters are spending time in the apartment at different times, sometimes not knowing that the others are there. But this is no zippy, dumb farce; its themes are woven together in a mesmerizingly ticklish way. It's a strange and meditative film, forcing us to consider the feelings and motivations of these three lonely souls. The final, long sequence, with May Lin on camera alone, is an unforgettable, unflinching examination of sorrow.

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