(Qing mei zhu ma)
Hou Hsiao-hsien, Tsai Chin, Lai Teh-nan, Ko I-Chen,
The collapsing relationship between two urban professionals forms the basis of Yang’s breakthrough feature. Friends since childhood and now lovers, businesswoman Shu-chen (pop star Tsai Chin) and ex-baseball player Lon (acclaimed director Hou Hsiao-hsien in a rare acting appearance) wander through a thriving, neon-lit boomtown. Instead of the joy of success, they discover only the fear of failure. Stylistically, Yang remains enamored of the still tableaux of Michelangelo Antonioni, Carl Th. Dreyer, and Yasujiro Ozu; an imposingly static frame accents the characters’ inherent stasis. The camera focuses on spinning fans, slightly twisting leaves, and other images of imprisoned repetition, while the soundtrack pointedly drowns words and speeches into the anonymous urban din. Unable to command the full attention of either sight or sound, the characters’ actions shrink, revealing only softly shaded moods of failure, loneliness, and sadness. Though set in mid-1980s Taipei, the film’s reflective atmosphere and absorbing, haunting visions of ordinary life are relevant anywhere and anytime.