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Rebels of Neon God [Import]

Chao-jung Chen , Chang-bin Jen , Ming-liang Tsai    Unrated   VHS Tape
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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The first feature film from Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-Liang, Rebels of the Neon God has more conventional "action" than most of this director's films, yet still features his unique cinematic style. A pair of petty hoodlums rob payphones and play video games at an arcade; one of them flirts with a girl who works at a roller rink. While taking her home on his motorcycle, the hoodlum smashes the side mirror of a taxi--which may be what inspires the taxi driver's son, a student who has just quit school, to follow the hoodlum around in pursuit of revenge. Rebels of the Neon God is told through a series of beautifully composed tableaux; the camera rarely moves, and most scenes are a single sustained shot. Yet the movie's measured pace and subdued but compelling visuals become strangely mesmerizing, as in the director's other films (Vive L'Amour, The Hole). --Bret Fetzer

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3.0 out of 5 stars Taipei teen angst ==> reviewer anomie June 14 2004
Format:VHS Tape
"Rebels of the Neon God" may be a tonic antidote to the portrayal of glittering high-rise Taipei in "Yi-Yi", but it's still a far cry from the underbelly films of Wong Kar-Wai or Scorsese. Along with Hou Hsiao-hsien's "Goodbye, South, Goodbye" (the obvious comparison), it explores not the banality of evil, but the banality of naughtiness. At least the cinematography adapts better to the small screen than "South", and the video transfer is better than the copy of "South" I viewed. (To get production issues out of the way, the subtitles are hilariously out of synch with the dialog, sometimes to the point of impenetrability, and probably not a very close translation; at least they were visible.) (Oh yes, the theme music sounded like something from a circus; eventually I started to giggle each time it started up.)
"Neon Gods" involves two clusters of people. One, a couple of teenaged petty thieves (Tse and Ping)living in an apartment with a perpetually regurgitating floor drain, and the girl (Kuei) they are currently trying to make time with. The other, a disaffected student (Hsiao Kang) studying for exams and his taxi-driver father and religious nut mother.
We follow Tse and Ping as they sleep, break into phone and vending machine coin boxes (which they carefully replace), contemplate their flooded floor, and eventually steal some circuit boards after breaking into a video game parlor. They pursue and compete for a young woman they meet renting skates at a roller rink, and get drunk a lot, passing out in hotels.
Hsiao Kang is frustrated in his studies, and has some anger issues -- he smashes a bug on a window so violently he breaks the glass and goes through the rest of the film with a bandaged hand.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another brilliant Tsai film Jan. 6 2010
By Le_Samourai - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
On a raining evening at a nondescript telephone booth in Taipei, two petty criminals, Ah-tze (Chen Chao-jung) and his friend Ah-ping (Jen Chang-bin) drill through the lock of the public telephone and steal the contents of the collection box. In another part of the city, an unmotivated and distracted student named Hsiao-Kang (Lee Kang-sheng) encounters a cockroach in his room, stabs the insect with the point of his compass, and tosses its dead carcass into the turbulent wind, only to find the seemingly tenacious vermin resurface on the other side of his window. In a quintessential, understatedly amusing scene, Hsiao-Kang unsuccessfully attempts to swat the insect, crashes his palm through the window, and calmly walks into the bathroom to dress his injured hand, amidst the perplexed and inquisitive gaze of his father (Tien Miao) and mother (Lu Hsiao-Ling). The scene then cuts to the alienating soundtrack of an ominous bass drone against the shot of a crowded arcade, as the two young men squander their stolen change on an aimless evening playing mind-numbing video games. On the following morning, Hsiao-Kang decides to disenroll and pocket the tuition refund from his college preparatory class, and returns to the parking area to discover that his scooter has been impounded. Deprived of his means of transportation, Hsiao-Kang begins to walk the streets, and is spotted by his father while driving his taxicab. The father offers assistance in recovering Hsiao-Kang's scooter, and convinces him to forgo his afternoon classes and join him in watching a movie. However, as they attempt to weave their way through traffic, their path is impeded by the discourteous Ah-tze who is escorting his brother's girlfriend, a roller skating rink operator named Ah-kuei (Wang Yu-Wen), on his motorcycle. As the father attempts to maneuver around Ah-tze's obstructing vehicle, Hsiao-Kang witnesses Ah-tze's inexplicable act of smashing the sideview mirror of the taxicab before casually driving away. Without the responsibility of attending tutorial classes or employment, Hsiao-Kang spends his idle time at a local mall, and one day, spots Ah-tze and his friends at the video arcade. Inevitably, the aimless Hsiao-Kang begins to follow the charismatic delinquent through his familiar routine, before setting on a course to exact revenge.

Tsai Ming-liang presents a harrowing, austere, and poignant examination of urban decay, amorality, ennui, and alienation in Rebels of the Neon God. Introducing recurring elements that would come to define the essence of Tsai's droll, minimalist, and idiosyncratic cinema, Rebels of the Neon God is a complex and metaphoric film that examines familiar Tsai themes: the ubiquitous presence of water (incessant rainstorms, the flooded kitchen floor of Ah-tze's apartment, Ah-ping's disclosed interest in Ah-kuei at a public toilet); the violative nature of the confined, shared spaces inherent in urban living (the opening shot of the telephone booth theft, Ah-tze's unexpected intrusion while Ah-kuei uses the bathroom, Hsiao-Kang's persistence in following Ah-tze), and the regression of human behavior to base instincts (Ah-tze's acts of vandalism and theft, and Hsiao-Kang's revenge). Through awkward and acutely wry scenes of prolonged and oppressive silence, odd actions, and instinctual behavior, Tsai confronts issues of identity, spiritual bankruptcy, and emotional disconnection with compassion, pathos, and humor. As a weary and distraught Ah-kuei hopelessly pleads "let's leave this place", she articulates a profound and compassionate anthem for a lost and marginalized generation foundering in the inertia of technology and modernization, complacently worshipping a hedonistic, and ultimately false, god.
1 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Taipei teen angst ==> reviewer anomie June 14 2004
By avoraciousreader - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
"Rebels of the Neon God" may be a tonic antidote to the portrayal of glittering high-rise Taipei in "Yi-Yi", but it's still a far cry from the underbelly films of Wong Kar-Wai or Scorsese. Along with Hou Hsiao-hsien's "Goodbye, South, Goodbye" (the obvious comparison), it explores not the banality of evil, but the banality of naughtiness. At least the cinematography adapts better to the small screen than "South", and the video transfer is better than the copy of "South" I viewed. (To get production issues out of the way, the subtitles are hilariously out of synch with the dialog, sometimes to the point of impenetrability, and probably not a very close translation; at least they were visible.) (Oh yes, the theme music sounded like something from a circus; eventually I started to giggle each time it started up.)
"Neon Gods" involves two clusters of people. One, a couple of teenaged petty thieves (Tse and Ping)living in an apartment with a perpetually regurgitating floor drain, and the girl (Kuei) they are currently trying to make time with. The other, a disaffected student (Hsiao Kang) studying for exams and his taxi-driver father and religious nut mother.
We follow Tse and Ping as they sleep, break into phone and vending machine coin boxes (which they carefully replace), contemplate their flooded floor, and eventually steal some circuit boards after breaking into a video game parlor. They pursue and compete for a young woman they meet renting skates at a roller rink, and get drunk a lot, passing out in hotels.
Hsiao Kang is frustrated in his studies, and has some anger issues -- he smashes a bug on a window so violently he breaks the glass and goes through the rest of the film with a bandaged hand. His father, in the only role with some verve, seems headed for an early heart attack or stroke, shouting at his family and other drivers, including Ah Tse on a motorcycle. The mother retreats into religion, believing Hsiao to be the incarnation of a god.
Tse, honked at, surreptitiously smashes the taxi's side mirror. Hsiao, who had been riding with his father, later sees him, and follows Tse, Ping and Kuei, eventually extracting some petty revenge. Tse and Ping, meanwhile, get in trouble with some slightly badder boys through a magnificent demonstration of sheer stupidity; Ping gets beaten, and Tse and Kuei want to go away, but can't imagine where.
I almost got a flicker of caring about the characters at the very end ... but it soon faded.
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