Rebels of the Neon God

 

Rebels of the Neon God

Director: Tsai Ming-liang

Country: Taiwan

Year: 1992/2014

Running time: 106 min

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REBELS OF THE NEON GOD

“A near-masterpiece…as close as contemporary filmmaking gets to the essence of poetry.“—Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, Chicago Reader

Tsai Ming-liang emerged on the world cinema scene in 1992 with his groundbreaking first feature, Rebels of the Neon God. His debut already includes a handful of elements familiar to fans of subsequent work: a deceptively spare style often branded “minimalist”; actor Lee Kang-sheng as the silent and sullen Hsiao-kang; copious amounts of water, whether pouring from the sky or bubbling up from a clogged drain; and enough urban anomie to ensure that even the subtle humor in evidence is tinged with pathos. The loosely structured plot involves Hsiao-kang, a despondent cram school student, who becomes obsessed with young petty thief Ah-tze, after Ah-tze smashes the rearview mirror of a taxi driven by Hsiao-kang’s father. Hsiao-kang stalks Ah-tze and his buddy Ah-ping as they hang out in the film’s iconic arcade (featuring a telling poster of James Dean on the wall) and other locales around Taipei, and ultimately takes his revenge. Rebels of the Neon God is a remarkably impressive first film that hints at the promise of its director: a talent confirmed by Tsai’s equally stunning second feature, Vive L’Amour (Golden Lion, Venice), and continuing to his most recent film, Stray Dogs, which ranked high on many “best of” lists last year. Though showing such diverse influences as the French New Wave, Wong Kar-wai’s early films—and, yes, Rebel Without a Cause—Tsai’s film is most remarkable for introducing his startlingly unique vision to world cinema.

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REVIEWS

“The creation of a wildly original artist coming into his own...feels alive with possibility...marks the start of one of modern cinema’s great careers.“
—A.O. Scott, New York Times

“No director since Fassbinder has such insight into the lives of lost young men in crumbling inner cities as Tsai Ming-Liang delivers in this devastating first feature. Brilliantly observed...as tender as a Lou Reed elegy.”
—Tony Rayns, Time Out London

“No longer simply a cult classic, Rebels of the Neon God is part of the history of gay youth consciousness in popular culture.”
—Armond White, OUT.com

“Makes one yearn for an alternative reality where it, not Pulp Fiction, became the beacon of ’90s independent filmmaking.”
—Clayton Dillard, Slant Magazine

“Tsai’s most accessible film is more unusual and uncompromising than any you’re likely to see this year.”

—Matt Zoller Seitz, RogerEbert.com

“One of the most quietly influential films in the world cinema of 1992...a cornerstone of the Taiwanese New Wave...would have fit in quite nicely alongside early ’90s art-house films such as Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colors trilogy and Wong Kar-wai’s Days of Being Wild and Chungking Express.”
—G. Allen Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle

“As a first film, it is incredibly accomplished, its influences (French New Wave, Wong Kar-Wai) apparent but integrated...you can see a director falling in love with the poetics of minimalism.”
—Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times

 

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