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Blu-Ray Review: Metrograph Pictures’ Millennium Mambo (Special Edition) 

Mellinum Mambo

Hou Hsiao Hsien’s non-linear drama Millennium Mambo comes to Blu-Ray in a stunning new 4K Restoration from Metrograph Pictures.  

The Film 

If there ever was a film that was a vibe… Millennium Mambo would be the very definition of the word.  Using music, images, and poetic narration to create an elegy for an era and a young woman’s life as she wanderlusts through both lovers and cities/countries.  Hou Hsiao Hsien’s film feels more Nic Roeg than most Nic Roeg films do.  

Vicky (Shu Qi) tells the story of two men in her life wannabe DJ and Gaslighting all-around shit Hao-Hao (Taun Chun-hao) and mature shady club owner Jack (Jack Kao) from a decade in the future.  As the two men come in and out of her life, Vicky’s story begins to meld time, place, and lover in a way that feels like a dream in search of meaning.  As Vicky endures different relationships with each man, each changes her future self, one we do not see but only hear from.  

Hou Hsiao Hsien’s fourteenth film is as accomplished, mysterious, and quietly and defiantly feminist as anything he’s directed.  The film is almost experimental in design, visuals, editing, and sound. Nothing is spelled out in the traditional sense of narrative.  

More a spiritual cousin to Roeg’s Bad Timing (without the murder) than any traditional drama.  We’re giving moments, slices of life that are not cohesive to a larger narrative but rather a tapestry or a visual poem.  The result is a film that feels like a memory and how one accesses them when a morose or contemplative moment occurs.  It is all to say that Millennium Mambo for those that understand its specific vibe will have found one of their new favorite films. 

The Transfer

The 4K restoration is a stunner.  The work Metrograph has done with the image is nothing short of spectacular.  The color reproduction, image sharpness, and contrast are all beautifully restored to its theatrical image.  There isn’t any sort of Wong Kar Wai sort of adjustments to the coloring of the film.  Just a beautifully clear and vibrant representation of the film.  The restoration is as accomplished a restoration we’ve seen all year.  

The Extras

They include the following;

  • Audio commentary by Rolling Stone film critic K. Austin Collins
  • Video essay by Adrian Martin and Cristina Alvarez Lopez
  • Re-release Trailer

The all-new Audio commentary by Rolling Stone film critic K. Austin Collins begins with how much he loves the film and how it was the first Hou Hsiao Hsien film he saw.  Some of the details include Millennium Mambo was the first film officially released in the US – it was also his 14th film; the political, cultural, and artistic moment that the film was filmed and developed in; the depiction of an emotionally abusive relationship and how he approaches it both subtext and super text of the youth of Taiwan; the details of the relationships and how those details are relayed and some of the cultural touchstones that may be loss on Western viewers; the use of style and how it invokes reality and verisimilitude for framing the relationships; how Hou Hsiao Hsien works with his actors, how he works on set, the reapproaching of various scenes to rework them and reshoot them often days later; the way that the film uses spaces – especially spaces that you become familiar with; the use of location and its effectiveness throughout for emotion; the style and milieu that the film invokes; its comp to Lost in Translation – and how different the film is in its purpose; and much more.  Collins gives us a great dissection of the film and its intent and meanings.  

STIRRING IN: A Scene from Millennium Mambo (9:25) – is an all-new Video Essay by Adrian Martin and Cristina Alvarez-Lopez. Martin and Alvarez-Lopez discuss and dissect the police/Rolex scene.  They look at the single-shot scene evolves, how it relates to the themes of the film, how it relates to the overall style of the film, and much more.  This wonderful essay sheds light on not just the scene’s purpose but the overall directorial approach that Hou Hsiao Hsien brings to the film.  

Re-release Trailer (1:40) 

The Final Thought 

Hou Hsiao Hsien’s Millennium Mambo is as beautiful, mysterious, and intoxicating as the day it was released.  Highly recommended!  

Metrograph Pictures’ Blu-Ray edition of Millennium Mambo is out now 

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