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"Goodbye South, Goodbye (Widescreen)"

Hsiang Hsi , Kuei-Ying Hsu , Hsiao-hsien Hou    Unrated   DVD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Product Description

Product Description

Kao, a small-time crook from Taiwan's suburban backwater, becomes entangled in a dangerous game of corrupt politics when his temperamental friend Flat Head antagonizes the wrong people.

From the Back Cover

In the tradition of Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets, Goodbye South, Goodbye, explores the world of small-time crime in the present-day suburban backwaters of Taipei. Directed by critically acclaimed filmmaker Hou Hsiao-hsien (Flowers of Shanghai, A Time to Live and a Time to Die), the film follows the luckless entrepreneurial ventures of Kao (Jack Kao) and his misfit cohort Flat Head (Taiwanese pop star Lim Giong). A non-stop schemer, Kao devises a plan to raise money by trading subsidized pigs to the government for cash. The ruse works, but when the temperamental Flat Head antagonizes the wrong people, the two find themselves caught up in a dangerous game of corrupt politics.

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Most helpful customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars don't watch Sept. 17 2002
Format:DVD
This is one of the few Taiwanese flicks with good English subtitles. More of an art than a plot film even though it gives a very convincing portrayal of the nasty netherworld behind Taiwanese thug life. The film progresses VERY slowly because the camera focuses extensively on not just the physical environment inhabited by thugs, but the style, look, behavior and demeanors of the gangsters themselves. Basically, the camera focuses on each individual scene until you have absorbed every little detail there is to it. If this film is intended for a foreign audience, the director certainly has made an attempt bring the viewer into the foreign world of Taiwanese organized crime, though the cinematography is not well done. There are some interesting shots of Taiwanese countryside along with footage of thug territory; such as dark dirty, ghetto studio sized rooms accommodating five, six individuals, which usually includes their drug addict women, a punching bag suspended from the ceiling, stray cats, etc. Art imitating life, these characters are always out to play their game for conquest and victory, except it's to - con big money, maintain symbiotic relations with politicians, and wage covert operations. If you're already taiwanese, there's nothing new in this film. If not, there's little you can get out of it since much of the film seems to be shot in the dark so it's hard to tell what's going on.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Not for all tastes, but great in my opinion Sept. 22 2001
Format:DVD
Hou's films are very difficult for the majority of people to sit through. I realize this. Still, I feel compelled to give this film my highest reccomendation. It's nothing short of a masterpiece.
Goodbye South Goodbye is filled with long lulls of dead space that are ... with scenes of violent narrative. We feel dazed into a sense of peace (boredom?) by the film's nonaction and slow rhythms, and then every ten or twenty minutes, something completely unexpected happens. It always manages to hit with that much more impact because you've been dulled a bit by the direction.
We get the sense that we're outsiders staring at a different world here (a feeling that's present in most of Hou's films). It's more stunning here because he manages to create that feeling in a modern day setting (the film follows two brothers that are low-level gangsters). Hou shoots scenes through doorways and windows. He uses color filters. He paces things at a more lifelike than movie like pace. Technically, its an amazing film. There are some great dolly shots as the characters travel by car or motorcycle that make the film worthwhile by themselves. Hou seems to be saying that if we want to understand these characters, we need to understand the world that they inhabit. To me this is infinitely superior to how the character responds to some artificial crisis created by a plot.
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5.0 out of 5 stars inspiring Jan. 11 2002
By A Customer
Format:DVD
Goodbye South, Goodbye is not for everyone, but if you give it try, you may see how incredible this film is. The dolly shots from the trains and on the motorcycles are beautiful and really give you a taste of the atmosphere. During the film the camera is like an object in the setting that gives you an inner look into the world of Gao and flatty (the two brothers). As a filmmaker this film has inspired me immensly and I highly recommend it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not for all tastes, but great in my opinion Sept. 22 2001
By Jeremy Heilman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Hou's films are very difficult for the majority of people to sit through. I realize this. Still, I feel compelled to give this film my highest reccomendation. It's nothing short of a masterpiece.
Goodbye South Goodbye is filled with long lulls of dead space that are ... with scenes of violent narrative. We feel dazed into a sense of peace (boredom?) by the film's nonaction and slow rhythms, and then every ten or twenty minutes, something completely unexpected happens. It always manages to hit with that much more impact because you've been dulled a bit by the direction.
We get the sense that we're outsiders staring at a different world here (a feeling that's present in most of Hou's films). It's more stunning here because he manages to create that feeling in a modern day setting (the film follows two brothers that are low-level gangsters). Hou shoots scenes through doorways and windows. He uses color filters. He paces things at a more lifelike than movie like pace. Technically, its an amazing film. There are some great dolly shots as the characters travel by car or motorcycle that make the film worthwhile by themselves. Hou seems to be saying that if we want to understand these characters, we need to understand the world that they inhabit. To me this is infinitely superior to how the character responds to some artificial crisis created by a plot.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars inspiring Jan. 11 2002
A Kid's Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Goodbye South, Goodbye is not for everyone, but if you give it try, you may see how incredible this film is. The dolly shots from the trains and on the motorcycles are beautiful and really give you a taste of the atmosphere. During the film the camera is like an object in the setting that gives you an inner look into the world of Gao and flatty (the two brothers). As a filmmaker this film has inspired me immensly and I highly recommend it.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My first Hou experince is a near revelation Jan. 6 2010
By Le_Samourai - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Goodbye South Goodbye opens to the image of a dour and impassive entrepreneur and marginal gangster named Gao (Jack Gao), his volatile and image-conscious associate, Flathead (Giong Lim), and a lackadaisical, drug addicted occasional prostitute named Pretzel (Annie Shizuka Inoh) riding on a passenger train to an unspecified destination. Gao receives a telephone call, but is unable to obtain a clear signal from his cellular phone, and loses contact. It is a subtle reflection of the protagonists' own unarticulated sense of profound disconnection. Without a clear sense of purpose or direction, Gao and his friends seemingly exist only through the pursuit of money: anonymous transactions, back room gambling, get-rich-quick schemes, ill conceived business ventures, exploiting government subsidies, and racketeering. Alone with his girlfriend Ying (Hsu Kuei-Ying), Gao reveals his latest plan to finalize an investment in Shenyang to open a restaurant as a means of getting into the profitable entertainment business with his friends, rationalizing that their success is guaranteed as long as they have the proper "relationships". Yet in a later, subtly humorous scene, the friends are shown operating their own restaurant, and quickly find themselves ill suited, unmotivated, and incompetent in managing the day to day affairs of the business, as Flathead shirks his duties by impolitely barking out orders in front of customers, and Pretzel attempts to convince the patrons into accepting an incorrect drink order. Despite their inexhaustible quest for money, their ultimate dream proves to be undefined, intangible, and ultimately elusive.

Hou Hsiao Hsien presents a visually breathtaking, hypnotic, and understatedly poignant examination of rootlessness, secularity, and alienation in Goodbye South Goodbye. Using a kinetic, Western-influenced soundtrack, long takes, and mesmerizing, interstitial traveling shots, Hou encapsulates the fluidity of movement as a visual metaphor for the escapism and drug induced haze of the aimless protagonists: the image of a constant velocity train traversing the railroad tracks; Gao, Flathead, and Pretzel weaving through near empty suburban streets on motorcycles; the color tinted perspective from a windshield as a car navigates through traffic. Through the characters' repeated pursuit of oblivion, Hou captures the transience and generational disconnection of contemporary Taiwanese from their traditional and cultural past. Inevitably, Goodbye South Goodbye is a haunting reflection of the confusion and pain of a lost national identity - an intoxicating elegy of motion and stasis, modernization and tradition, hope and nihilism.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "So Far Away, Almost There" Jan. 2 2008
By Suzanne - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
This was my 3rd Hou Hsiao-hsien film and in many ways it is a departure from his earlier work. Hou has often been compared to Ozu, both in terms of style, in how they rely on stationary, still camera shots and long takes, and in the subject matter in dealing with people and families in changing society and culture climates. However, this comparison is more evident in films like A City of Sadness or Café Lumiere than in Goodbye South, Goodbye (GSG). In GSG, Hou borrows from another legendary Japanese director in Kenji Mizoguchi. Mizoguchi's trademark of the elegant, moving camera (usually by way of crane shots) is all over GSG. Hou's long take is still in effect, and I'd guess that most takes average well over a minute in length. It's often this aspect - of staying with a scene when not much is happening - that turns many off to Hou's films.

GSG has been dubbed as Hou's Taiwanese version of Scorsese's Mean Streets, and the two films do bear some similarities in terms of subject matter. What really separates the two however is the narrative focus. Mean Streets actively involves you in the lives of its pathetic and tragic characters - chronicling their journey through the world of low-level crime. Hou's direction has a very different relationship with his characters. We often find that when any scheme, plan, or anything relative to the plot is being discussed, Hou's camera couldn't seem less interested. A great example happens early in the film with Kao having a conversation with his relatives, while the camera moves off and follows Flatty and Pretzel playing with a baby and just being silly in general. Another example comes later with Flatty discussing his "missing" money, while the camera moves off to focus on Kao feeding some pet dogs. Hou seems to be mocking these characters and their pathetic attempts to make it big, instead of focusing on the central "plot" he will move off to focus on seemingly unimportant things.

Beyond the change in focus, Hou's masterful compositions and depth of field usage is prevalent throughout. Hou usually sets up his camera, and uses space to present the narrative perspective and relationship with the characters. The opening shot is the epitome of this idea, as we see Kao in the foreground, relatively close to the camera on the right, with Flatty and Pretzel in the background on the left, and techno music thudding along. Hou plays with space so that the distance from the characters and emptiness around them speaks louder about the scene than the plot itself. One reviewer described this technique as "spatial disconnect". Scenes where the average film would place its camera in the midst of the happenings (such as when Flatty is forced into a car and taken away), Hou instead hangs back and views from a distance. Allowing us to merely observe, but not actively participate in the narrative happenings.

Hou often fills this quietness with interruptions from modern life. Cell phones, video games, techno music, Western references - all of these things invade GSG like a purposeful annoyance. Thematically, Hou seems to be stressing the distancing inconvenience that modern conveniences provide for us. People constantly chatter on cell phones, talking but rarely communicating. Pretzel plays a video game while weeping. And techno music fills scenes of quiet, perhaps suggesting how we fill the silence in our own lives. Beyond the above invading elements are scenes of trains, cars, motorcycles, roads, and movement. There are atleast 4 distinct scenes that reiterate this idea of "movement" - of heading somewhere, even if we have no idea where that somewhere is. In a way, this works as a wonderful metaphor for these characters, and perhaps most people in modern life. Perhaps the scene that epitomizes this is Kao, Flatty, and Pretzel's bike ride that winds for minutes down a narrow road, heading uphill, eventually using the phrases "So far away", "Almost there". Of course, this fits perfectly with the characters lives. So far away from anything meaningful or any real purpose, but almost there with regards to whatever temporary destination they are heading towards.

The final scene of the film is also wonderful. To not give it away, I'll merely say that there's a superb element of complete arbitrariness about it. After your first viewing you might be thinking "what the hell? What was the point of that?" But the idea that there is no point - or rather, I might say that there is no element of purposeful fate - seems to be significant to how random these characters' lives are anyway. As if they never had control of anything to begin with. There are several scenes that reinforce this - one is of Kao throwing up after a party, and lamenting about failing his father.

As intriguing as I think this film is, I also feel that it is flawed, and not Hou's best. I couldn't help but think that it runs too long. My initial thought was that there were several scenes that could've been cut and the film would've been much tighter and effective. But after a second viewing I tend to think that there's nary a scene that isn't important or relevant to something. An alternative solution would've been to merely trim these scenes, allowing the film to flow easier. The problem isn't necessarily one of fat, but merely bloat. This film's style is difficult and distancing enough without scenes that outstay their welcome, and I can't help thinking that with a 10-15 minute less run-time this film would've been much better. That said, this film is rhythmically complex enough that the length is only a minor inconvenience.

One negative critique of the film said that "while this film tries to tackle the lives of its characters, these are some of the most uninteresting lives I've ever witnessed". The great irony is that despite the pathetic nature of their lives (one karaoke singer nails the sentiment with the line "These are really foolish people") they are still generally much more interesting than our own. Hou, by way of the Italian neo-realists, has delivered a film that could almost be a documentary. GSG - and most of Hou's films - do not try to hype reality, but merely present it. With his careful narrative focus, compositions, and meticulous film technique he's able to reveal and discuss a great many things about the society and culture of Taiwain as well as our own. You may notice that I've said relatively little regarding the actual narrative or characters - that's because this is a film whose value doesn't lie in either. If you approach GSG looking for Tarantino-esque colorful characters, or a Scorsese-like powerful narrative, then you will be sorely disappointed. This film - and Hou's films in general - are films for people who are seeking the opposite aesthetic of that of what modern Hollywood offers. And that is the film of the every-man, and all the scabs and warts associated with it.

Ultimately, this is a difficult and distancing, but subtly complex and rewarding film; One that, for those who are intrigued by its unique aesthetic, will likely come back to so that it can reveal its thematic nuances with repeat viewings.
1.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful film, poor transfer Dec 16 2013
By PIERS STOREY - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I love this film, but it's a poor transfer. A bootleg? Someone needs to release all Hou Hsiao-Hsien's films on DVD, then we no-one would end up paying £35 for a dodgy product.
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