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The River [Import]

Tien Miao , Kang-sheng Lee , Ming-liang Tsai    Unrated   DVD
2.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 97.83
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Product Description

Amazon.ca

The strange, elliptical movies of Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-Liang (The Hole, What Time Is It There?) defy encapsulation. A description of The River will tell you about a female elevator operator, her pornography-selling lover, and her husband who goes to gay bathhouses. Her unhappy scooter-riding son runs into an actress he knew a few years earlier; she brings him to the set of a movie she's working on, where the young man gets a role as a corpse floating in a river. But none of that amounts to a plot in any conventional sense, and that summary doesn't capture the slow but hypnotic pace of Tsai's movies, or how the seemingly ordinary images will burn themselves into your memory. The lack of conventional action will frustrate some viewers, but others will find deadpan humor and an eerie cinematic poetry. --Bret Fetzer

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Customer Reviews

2.2 out of 5 stars
2.2 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars duh...the reviewer apes the film unintentionally July 4 2003
By A Customer
Format:DVD
it's amazing to me how you can summarize this film so matter of factly and made it through it, but can't realize that your emotional response to it was forecoded by the director. do you think he really wanted you to be mesmerized in the western-commodity-entertainment sense of a viewing experience? to fully appreciate tsai's masterpiece, we have to develop a new viewing strategy descendant from antonioni, ozu, etc. if you need a unifying thread to titillate your sense of linear narrative continuity, try the ubiquity of water in its myriad forms and how that relates to the despair and utter alienation of the characters both constricted by a colonized city that has grown too fast to maintain and the tyranny of the oedipal family scenario as it is linked to the very same capitalistic regime. it is a profound meditation on what happens to the spirit in this highly specific and contextualized allegory shot through with mise-en-scene punning and starkly lyrical use of a poetics of absence. try to get on an equation with the artist not just foist your own expectations on the work and then its secrets will flourish.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Another dud from an overrated director. Dec 7 2003
By A Customer
Format:DVD
...Ming-liang Tsai's films drag along endlessly with no direction and, quite frankly, no real acting. The River is a story which could have been easily and effectively told in 30 minutes, but instead it drags on for two hours. Scenes are needlessly drawn out and tell the viewer rather little. This is not avant-garde or alternative film making...
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By A Customer
Format:DVD
i love artistic movies...but what happened to this one? it's a strange movie indeed. viewing from an artistic point of view, it may make some sense, but with lots of forwarding. if you like slow artsy movie, watch "scent of green papaya" instead.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Undramatic and unmoving. June 28 2003
Format:DVD
Ming-Liang Tsai's 'The River' is the story of Xiao-Kang, his father, and his mother. Although the three share the same tiny apartment, they do not actually "live" together, in the sense that there seems to be no relationship at all between them.
The father has a completely ordinary life during the day (however we never actually learn what he does for a living), and leads a secret life at night roaming Taipei's gay bathhouses. As a B-plot, dad is on a mission to stop his bedroom ceiling from leaking water from the apartment above him.
Xiao-Kang's mother works as an elevator operator. There's hardly a moment where you see her conversing or interacting with her husband, which might explain why she has undertaken an affair with a pornographer. The fact that her husband is secretly gay only serves to reinforce the viewer's belief that she is unsatisfied at home.
Then there's the main character, Xiao-Kang, a young man who seems very detached from his mother, father, and everybody else in general. At the start of the movie, he becomes reacquainted with an actress friend of his. She brings him to the set of her next movie, where the director spends half her day trying to film a dead corpse floating down the Tansui River. After many unsuccessful attempts, the director decides that the dummy being used as the dead corpse just does not look genuine enough to work in her film.
The river is the symbolic focal point of the movie. Years of pollution has turned it into a stagnating cesspool. As the movie trailer says, the river represents life. Roughly, it says this: You can either stagnate, or begin again anew... you can either float to the top, or sink straight to the bottom. This is a very inciteful and poetic philosophy behind the idea of the film.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars don't pay attention to most of these other reviews Aug. 8 2004
By K. Kaiser - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
It seems like most everyone else reviewing this film missed the point entirely. If the film seems dead like the dummy, then why do you think the dummy was in the film in the first place? The characters are emotionally dead, floating down the river (of life?) like the dummy. Everything means something. Tsai Ming-Liang is not interested in how crazy he can make the camera move. He is one of the few directors I have seen whose films are a reaction AGAINST action, and by action I mean the Tarantino/Rodriguez-style. Which is not to say I don't admire those directors. Ming-Liang's films just hold so much SUBTLETY. The long shots and little camera movement force the viewer not to merely watch but to participate. Why is the camera set up this way? What am I watching? Why am I watching it? In other words, he forces the viewer to make the associations normally presented surface-level to the viewer of most other films. Apparently Wong Kar-Wai is supposed to be the new Godard. But Godard was always more into filming "essays" and filming in such a way that was supposedly not "allowed." So I believe Ming-Liang's films are much closer to Godard's style in that they are reactions against the current norm. He is the son of Ozu and Antonioni, with a complete aesthetic, technical, and emotional motivation behind his style. Ming-Liang is one of the most slept on directors working today. If you have a true love for cinema, not just Kevin Smith, Tarantino, and David Lynch, if you can appreciate a thin line between comedy and drama, if you can allow yourself to be sculpted into a new form of viewing cinema, just as the directors of the Nouvelle Vague once did, then... you get the idea.
16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars duh...the reviewer apes the film unintentionally July 4 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
it's amazing to me how you can summarize this film so matter of factly and made it through it, but can't realize that your emotional response to it was forecoded by the director. do you think he really wanted you to be mesmerized in the western-commodity-entertainment sense of a viewing experience? to fully appreciate tsai's masterpiece, we have to develop a new viewing strategy descendant from antonioni, ozu, etc. if you need a unifying thread to titillate your sense of linear narrative continuity, try the ubiquity of water in its myriad forms and how that relates to the despair and utter alienation of the characters both constricted by a colonized city that has grown too fast to maintain and the tyranny of the oedipal family scenario as it is linked to the very same capitalistic regime. it is a profound meditation on what happens to the spirit in this highly specific and contextualized allegory shot through with mise-en-scene punning and starkly lyrical use of a poetics of absence. try to get on an equation with the artist not just foist your own expectations on the work and then its secrets will flourish.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful film by a brilliant filmmaker May 2 2005
By kinojay33 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Highly recommended if you are a fan of Antonioni, Tarkovsky, Tarr or other filmmakers who utilize time (especially slow pacing) and landscape to help develop the internal states of their characters. Tsai's films are very meditative and contemplative; they help you to understand a character by observing their daily routine and most intimate moments played out in full. His works are challenging, but well worth the effort.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You Won't Forget It Jan. 18 2005
By R. Howard Courtney - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
This movie is not what we Westerners are accustomed to in movies, therefore we tend to dismiss it. We like all emotions openly displayed. lots of dialogue and the plot must be resolved.

You will find none of this in this movie, but it is certainly worth viewing and once you understand the reason for the lack of interaction between characters, it does make sense.

Another aspect that makes the movie difficult is the long scenes when nothing is happening on the screen. That was the director's approach.

The family is totally disfunctional as a unit. The parents never speak to each other, they all eat alone, and they function in their own little worlds with virtually no emotion.

Even sex is random with no emotions attached.

After the encounter between the son and the father, no one speaks of it and life continues on as before. There is no resolution to anything. That is the horror of the whole movie.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dead in the water . . . April 26 2006
By Ronald Scheer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
This downbeat film about a family in Taipei is open to many interpretations, which will make it intriguing for viewers who like movies that make them wonder about what they are watching. There is something of a storyline in this film - a young man falls mysteriously ill and his parents attempt to find a cure for him - but its chief purpose seems to be little more than the thread on which each scene is strung together. Not that there's anything wrong with that . . .

What we see is three people living in the same small apartment who are almost completely estranged from each other, rarely speaking, deeply bored and reaching out for human contact through occasional moments of illicit and unsatisfying encounters. The absence of familial affection and the emptiness of its substitutes are brought together in a final ironic incident between father and son.

Water, the bringer of life and purification, is instead a menacing presence in the film - from a polluted river to a leaky ceiling that seems unrepairable. Winner of many awards when it was released, the film is a troubling portrayal of modern urban life. While its long, slow scenes require some patience from the viewer, there is much to ponder as the closing credits begin to crawl - and for hours afterward.
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