“Millennium Mambo” (2001), a magnificent work by Hou Hsiao-hsien which sublimates the actress Shu Qi, has been released in cinemas more than twenty years later in a restored 4K version.
A masterpiece by Hou Hsiao-hsien
21 years have passed since the first release in France of Millennium Mambo (2001)a priceless masterpiece by Hou Hsiao-hsien, and we still see Shu Qi walking in slow motion in this hallway lit with bluish neon lights at the start of the film. The actress’ black hair, her arm movements, her cigarette smoke escaping from her mouth, her magnificent gaze in the direction of the camera. Everything is there to represent this heroine’s desire for freedomright down to the intoxicating piece A Pure Person of Lim Gong which punctuates this sequence – and returns regularly in the film.
This heroine is Vicky, whom Shu Qi introduces with a voiceover and in the third person. ” She had broken up with Hao-Hao, but he always managed to find her, to call her, to beg her to come back she tells us. The time, ” It was ten years ago » she continues. ” The year 2001, the world was celebrating the 21st century and the new millennium “.
In a single shot and with barely three sentences, Hou Hsiao-hsien brings together past, present and future. The past to which Vicky seems to return, accompanied by a voice from the future. Therefore, the present that we will discover in Millennium Mambo will already be far away for her.
Millennium Mambo’s frozen time
The intertwining temporalities have a particular flavor in Chinese cinema (from Taiwan or Hong Kong) in the 1990s and 2000s. With Hou Hsiao-hsien, it is through the contemplation of the moments of life that translates. He later realized Three Times (2005), triple love story in three different periods, always with Shu Qi, before the coming The Assassin in 2015 for a final collaboration with his muse.
In Millennium Mambo, time seems frozen. Here we are, observing the simple and complex life of Vicky. Stuck in a toxic relationship with a jealous (who goes so far as to smell her to check her scent), violent and heroin-addicted manshe tries to escape from a dreary daily life hanging out in clubs – alcohol, drugs and fags helping. Until the day she meets Jack, the leader of a small gang who offers her an unexpected tenderness. It is also with him that the film could sometimes switch into the gangster film.
The magnificent spleen of Shu Qi
Hou Hsiao-hsien captures with her magnificently his time (his present when he turns) and especially disillusioned youth and who can hardly dream of a future. Millennium Mambo fascinated by the subtle movements of the director’s camera which, failing to film the freedom of its characters, gives it to its interpreters to navigate as they please within the frame.
There is also a form of melancholy romanticism that emerges from his work, largely thanks to Shu Qi, sublimated by photography by Mark Lee Ping-bin and director’s close-ups. Timeless work par excellence, Millennium Mambo has not aged a bit and sees itself again tirelessly. Its release in theaters on October 19, 2022 in restored 4K version is obviously welcome.