Millennium Mambo

Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Taiwan France, 2001


In order to film this final scene, Hou Hsiao Hsien didn’t think about recreating snow, he went to get it, in a very precise place and moment: in Yubaru, a small town in the north of Japan, where there is a cinema festival each winter. Just like his hero, in voice-over, talks about the memory of the two young men she loved, the world transforms before us with the snow covering everything, in a world without light. Past is flush with present, the snow tells the vulnerability of what is going to disappear, the fleeting moment we have to hold back. The beginning tracking shot, like the slow panoramas on the posters and passers-by, capture the instant when the snowflakes fall, blurring the image entirely, blurring our perception, and creating new shapes: stars shower on the windscreen, white blanket on the streets, fragile and ephemeral powder hanging on to hair and hats. HHH also enjoys strangely slowing down, stretching time. The metamorphosis created by the snow comes both from enchantment and melancholy. The passers-by smile as they stroll along this deserted street, but the young girl’s story in voice-over creates an obvious offset with the happy carefreeness around. The snow is like a jewel box just as much as like a shroud for the memories of a forever lost love, in the memory of the cinema embodied by the iconic actors’ faces forever fossilized on those posters, in the memory of a seemingly ghostly town, abandoned to the only crows.