Friday, July 6, 2007

café lumière

Café Lumière (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2003) - 8.5/10

After watching Café Lumière, my third film from Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien (Three Times, and Millennium Mambo), I realize the patience his films require.

When watching Millennium Mambo I was put off by the long takes of the characters doing the most ordinary and mundane actions. Such as a one minute take (might be a little off) of Shu Qi's character lighting and smoking a cigarette. Or a character walking in and out of the kitchen pouring a drink.

Café Lumière is the slowest of the three films I've seen from Hsiao-hsien. I have no problems with this. In fact, Café Lumière is the one I love most. The movie is constructed in a way where you feel like an observer. From the train ride scenes, where it seems the viewer is settled inside the train accompanying/observing the character of Yôko (played by Jpop artist, Yo Hitoto, in her first film acting role). Yôko is a freelance writer content on being independent. She has a place of her own, and feels no desire to marry the guy whom she is pregnant with, wanting to bring up the child on her own. It may seem from an outer layer that her relationship with her parents is close, but far from it. As far as them struggling to communicate with one another.

Tadanobu Asano (Ichi The Killer) is Hajime, a book store owner and a very close friend to Yôko. Hajime comes off as carefree and laid-back, and acts as a support to Yôko's problems. But maybe deep inside Hajime is isolation. Something curled up, like the digital artwork he created of a fetus enclosed between multiple trains. When Yôko tells Hajime about her pregnancy, there is only a quiet response from Hajime.

The everyday existence of these characters are portrayed with ordinary actions from the characters, little dialogue, and a serene and quiet paced film that maybe mimics the existence of our ordinary beings.

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