[LIVE!] Blog Notes on Millennium Mambo (2001)

...for Sani, a fellow cinephile...

Rating: 5/5 (a masterpiece)

...who loves this movie badly. I have this piquant closeness to the usage of colors in films. It began quite about early last year with my obsessive viewing of Wong Kar-Wai's films which i kind of associate individually with a dominant color (arrange based on obsession level): Chunking Express (1994) for yellow , Happy Together (1997) for blue, In the Mood for Love (2000) for red and Ashes of Time (1994) for orange. One has to know that Auditoire loves Wong Kar-Wai very much and that these films have influenced Auditoire's viewing patterns for colored films ever since.

With Millennium Mambo (2001), we all have sheer expectations of a well-colored, function-specific film for all its goodness. I have nothing to hide for myself anyway: i have a fetish for color in films or in anything since Almodvar cooked up my right brain with Bad Education (2005). I won't delay my viewing, the facts and figures and my notes about Millennium Mambo will follow shortly.


1 | Scopic first scene. Brilliant. Qi Shu. Slow motion. Broke up with Hao Hao. narration in non-diegetic mode. Slow music beat. Saturation of light. Blue. Hip. Millennium. Modern. A modern film.

2 | Blue light. Friends in a bar. Camera moves in a light space. Slow music beat continues. A certain award. Vicky is the girl. A magic trick. Youth. music. love.

3 | pops a champagne. A party. A millennium party? Camera is consistent with its movement. scoping and looking at the characters with a focus on Vicky.

4 | Blue blue blue. Strobing Lights in a disco. Claustrophobic. Dynamic. Saturated with color. A long scale shot. Smoke.

5 | unfocused image. searching. Unidentified place. Focused. Vicky's place. Dresses for herself. A man inside. Must be Vicky's boyfriend. Play of red and neon blue. undressed Vicky. man kisses her nape. she smokes. Silent. dresses up. a long shot. Focus on the man. Man is Hao Hao.

6 | narration is asynchronous with action. Hao hao agitates vicky. Impatient. The narration is in third person. Tells she didn't finished HS. The narration tells of her spiraling down life when she started fooling around at the age of 16.

7 | In a bar with Hao-hao, Vicky shouting at him. Throbing green. Hao hao drinks, Vicky laughs at him. The narration ends when vicky and hao hao was taken into the police station. A certain Doze. Modern hip music. Disco music typical of 2000s. Techie music. Blond Hao hao. Vicky calms Hao hao.

8 | Sex. green. Hao hao and vicky. unfocused. Inverted scene, throbbing light. Non-erotic sex scene.

9 | first morning scene. phone call. Hao hao answers. something is misplaced. haohao bursts into an irritated tone. Vicky is up. the one who called has hao hao's father. Looking for a Rolex watch. This was mentioned in the narration a while ago.

10 | Disk jockey. Hao hao. Mixing disco sounds. No hot water. hao hao fixes the tap. Buys a replacement.

11 | Vicky waits for hao hao. police enters. hao hao is a theft. Police searches the apartment for something hao hao stole. Narration in third person continues: hao hao abuses her, she left him. (the scene never resolved the conflict between hao hao and the police)

12 | HAO Hao on drugs... on bong. Vicky woke up. Camera always moves in a trancy pace. following characters movement. Vicky insists to smoke together. hao hao doesn't permit. vicky wants to throw the bong out.

13 | an incredible jumpcut. hao hao searches vicky's purse for receipts (which the narrator told a while ago at scene 11) hao hao finds something in her wallet. a phone card, implicates vicky cheating on hao hao though she called home long distance. the camera do not enter vicky's room. (but why?) weird placement. only off-screen actions and sounds propel the narrative. it also do not enter the bathroom. Only in the living room. (but why?) Vicky leaves hao hao. She wants goes home. (this scene was narrated awhile ago)
14 | We see naked female dancing in front of two men. In a bar i think. Narration continues: hao hao wants to get her back, hao hao was jealous she worked. She meets jack at Spin. Now on a public bath with Jack with the guys. Vicky on top of Jack's car. Music beat goes on. Love the beat. Vicky is happy with jack at this moment. (this scene was like a montage, with the narration and image finally in sync)

15 |
Vicky on a multicolored wall. A restaurant bar. Red light shines on her. talks to a guy. is this Jack? Narration continues: taekuchi brothers, reminds of Hao hao because their shy.

16 | In a snowy village, narration continues, visits japan with Taekuchi. Gradma 80th birthday. beats continues. Inaudible audio. A snow country. Plays at the snow. plays snow with taekuchi.places face on snow.

17 | A red door. enters vicky in the apartment with a man. Disco Music continues with Hao hao. Vicky drinks wine plus soda. and smokes. melancholy. enters room. no sound. Sleeps. Hao hao drinks soda. enters vicky's room. "I think we were from two different worlds, how could we get along with each other." by Hao hao, vicky reacts by throwing a pillow. A woman in torment, moody. Drinks whiskey. is it painful to be with me? long shot length. Hao hao continues disco music mix.

18 | Vicky leaves. New scene. Enters apartment with people in it. Hao hao has visitors. Plays video game with friends. Drinks whiskey. Hao hao snobs vicky's presence. Vicky cleans apartment in front of hao hao and friend. Hao hao digs vicky's bag and checks for bite marks in her nape. smells Vicky with suspicion. Vicky wants to him out.

19 | BLUE BLUE BLUE Vicky inside a club with her friend. Narration starts: she broke up with Hao hao. She left him good with her big money on the bank. Hao hao enters. wants to talk to hao hao. hao hao friends interferes. had a small disagreement and fights.

20 | From a TV camera, walks in Vicky. Doorbells. Enters crying. She meets jack. Asks if Hao hao abuses her?

21 | Wakes up.

22 | jack cooks for her. She wants a spicer dish. Camera roams defocuses and focuses. Observing the movements of the character. Eats noodles with jack. A certain pauline on drugs.

23 | still on jacks. JACKS warns her of drinking too much. hao hao rift up all of her clothes. Jack asks if what is she to do with hao hao. urging to go back to normal life. "Do you think i could work on a coffee shop?" "Why not?"

24 | Inside a car.

26 | Jack Answers a phone. Something wrong in his face. something with messing up at stoneheads. Vicky's too drunk. Attends to vicky. wants vicky to go home. Trouble. But we never see the trouble, it is only implicated.

27 | TV capture. Vicky on the floor. Unlocks the door. Enters jacks apartment. Vomits. jacks sees vicky's bag and plastic outside her door. Acts suspiciously. Jacks holds a gun. A dangerous man. Vicky sleeps on the couch. jacks covers her.

28 | Train passing. External Shot. At Tokyo. Okohama. Left a phone and key. From a recorded phone call message: Jack is in japan. invites vicky. Vicky smokes.

29 | Calls jack.

30 | Sleeps but wakes up. Smokes cigarettes. Cut and wakes us completely alone.

31 | Snowy. Narration: jack never showed up. have fun with Taekuchi twins. Yubari road of cinema. A country for a snowman. On japanese films. CINEMA. CINEMA. CINEmA. Everything happened in 2001.

32 | last shot on sign board. Music beats on.

----End of film. ----



Rating: 5/5 (a masterpiece)

In the last moments of Millennium Mambo, there lingers a montage in homage to cinema.: flashes of wall paintings of films with Japanese scripts: serene and filled with visions. It was one of the saddest part for me, because, as i can tell from my VLC player, the movie was making a finale scene, an ode, an elegy, if you can call it that. We apparently know that Vicky and Jack never met, we do not know why for the film did not explicitly denotes the reasons. But we can initially imply that Jack wanted Vicky to have a normal life as explicitly stated in scene 23 above. With the compounding problems in Jack's underground organization, Vicky was lured to Tokyo and since then Vicky have had a happy life with the Taekuchi twins at Yubiri village.


Hou Hsiao-Hsien establishes his frames with precision and grace. Composed of multiple lenghty shots, each elements of the mise-en-scene film vibrates with trance and energy of the post-90s climate with the camera moving in rhythm with the characters.

The famous opening scene is one of the mystical element of the film. It opens the film quite opposite to Wong Kar-Wai's Chungking Express (1994) though both of them where shot in slow motion. Is it that Hou shows us a comparison between the two?


Millennium Mambo captures the sensibilities of a woman imbibed with a feeling of modernity, the theme explored in so many films from Antonioni's L'Avventura (1960) to Chantal Akerman's Jeanne Dielman (1975) to David Lynch's Inland Empire (2005).


In many scenes, Hou pays homage to many films of from Asia. As in Scene 20 and 27, the presence of the surveillance camera is reminscent of a scene from Yi Yi: A One and A Two (2001). Scene 24 reminds me of a scene from Happy Together (1997). Scene 8 fulfills the delayed love making of Brigette Lin and Takeshi Kaneshiro in Chungking Express (1994). Numerous other homages can drawn. The film seems to summarize the aesthetics that sprouted in contemporary Asian Cinema of the 1990s.


A Pure Reason!

A Mystical Opening

An Elegiac Ending

[coming soon]