Millennium Mambo

Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Taiwan, France, 2001


This extract comprises a domestic scene, filmed in one single long take, where the subjects are a young man and young woman. The décor of the young woman’s room is rather kitsch and recalls the work of Paul Klee, with its rectangles, squares and bright, cheerful colours.  The film maker undoubtedly constructed his images by placed these coloured shapes around the room, much like a modernist painter would on their canvas. Hou Hsiao Hsien is a film maker who can not stand flat, motionless light on screen.  He constantly invents ways and finds solutions to make light and colour more lively in each shot.

Here, in this pan which follows the girl as she passes out of the room and leaves the apartment, the camera passes in front of a rather beautiful blue neon light, and then on to the yellow wall, where the flickering blue light of a television screen is projected, then in front of the green light of the bathroom, finally arriving on the red panel on the door.  In one dynamic shot we rediscover all the colours of the first shot.

To make the colour effects on screen even more lively and unexpected the film maker places the camera very close in to the colour bead curtain, which covers the entrance way.   When the focus of the shot is on the back of the room, or on the boy, the coloured beads are rendered almost transparent and invisible, whilst, on the other hand, become shining, animated blobs of colour superimposed over the stable and fixed colours of the setting itself.  It is as if the film maker has layered a moving collage over his own image.