"A breathtaking view of isolation and loneliness; Taipei is the setting for the story of three characters who use an empty apartment building for their own purposes, barely aware of the other inhabitants. Slowly, quietly they affect the others' lives. Elliptical, dreamy, with spare dialogue and a rigorous, deliberate pace, Tsai-Ming Liang captures a palpable sense of unrest and disquiet in a lanscape of skyscrapers and industrial ooze. The setting's Taipei, but the characters could be in any big city; alienated, desperate for connection and unable or unsure of how to reach the other souls. There are moments of hilarity and disconcerting emotion, but ultimately the film creates a sense of quiet horror; in Liang's mirror, we are just ghosts taking up space in the concrete."
Tragic-Comedy at its Best
Chee Young CHANG | Singapore | 02/22/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Ming-Liang Tsai has never failed to deliver the goods when it comes to describing our postmodern existence in an Asian city. Vive L'amour tells a story of three persons in an empty studio apartment in Taipei. It is a manage-a-trois that never happened. This movie is not for the faint-hearted. Its poetry lies in its sparseness. Imagine, there's only about 30 mins of dialogue in the 150-min movie! Watch the pivotal 10-min scene at the end of the movie where the female protagonist walks round a park, sits down and cry, all in one take. Vive L'amour shows us all the things a good movie should be, what Hollywood films have consistently failed to do."
Penetrating character study
LGwriter | Astoria, N.Y. United States | 06/16/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This three-person character study--a straight man, a straight woman, and a gay man--has for its title a bitterly ironic homage to love, using a phrase in French (that most romantic of languages) to convey a story, if it could be called that, which focuses sharply on two of its three characters, using the third as a foil for the other two.
The popular translation of the title is "Here's to love", or "Long live love"; it's a phrase that's used as much (if not more) in American circles as in French. But this is really a drama with sadness and loneliness as its two companion muses or driving forces. The gay man makes a semi-real attempt to kill himself; the woman, in one scene, cries alone, long and hard. They do these things because, it is clear, they cannot really express what love is, they cannot feel what love is, they cannot really connect to another person to give and receive love.
The third person, the straight man, blithely carried on his trade as an illegal street vendor, engaging in liaisons with the woman in the same unrented space in which the gay man himself hangs out. In one powerful scene, the two straights make love on a bed, directly underneath which the gay man engages in autoerotic behavior. It is clear that the gay man wants the straight man as much as the woman does.
The irony of the film transcends the title as well. The woman is a real estate agent, but has trouble finding paying customers; thus, her space is not valued. The gay man sells "columbaria" which are urns to house the ashes of the cremated dead; thus he is, in effect, a real estate agent for the dead while the straight woman is a real estate agent for the living. The gay man has no shortage of paying customers; the straight woman can't find one. Space reserved for the dead is more valuable than that for the living.
Tsai Ming-liang, the director, has to be counted as one of the most interesting contemporary working directors. Having now seen The Hole, Vive L'Amour, and Goodbye Dragon Inn, I can say without any doubt that he is a truly unique filmmaker, one to definitely keep an eye on.
Highly recommended. I will definitely see Tsai's other film The River as soon as I can."
Problem of Suicide and Homosexuality Treated with Compassion
T. R. Rak | 08/28/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Director Tsai Ming-Liang handles the character of Hsiao-kang (Kang-sheng Lee), a young gay man full of loneliness, uncertainty, restlessness and shyness, with a great deal of tenderness, gentleness, mercy and parental affection. We don't know a lot about our character Hsiao-kang going in, except that he's ostensibly an educated, white-collar professional in sales; he's gay and he's suicidally depressed at the opening of the film. As the movie unfolds (like a quiet flower) however, we begin to realize that Hsiao-kang's depressed because he's unfulfilled, because he's lonelier than hell; he needs to find love; he's desperate and going a little nuts -- he doesn't seem to have a friend in the world. Luckily our director is so compassionate; instead of allowing his protagonist to get away with killing himself, he instead offers Hsiao-kang a second chance at life, and there is evidence by the end of the movie -- Hsiao-kang is no longer quite so suicidal, but is indeed endeavoring to work through his feelings more constructively, and struggling to connect better with others, especially with another man he's deeply interested in. Yet the struggle ahead of Hsiao is enormous, and director Tsai is not a sentimentalist. "Life is hard" could be the mantra for everything that goes on in "Vive L'amour" (ironically titled). Or as James Joyce put it, "life is a wonderful, wonderful opera, except that it hurts!" Life does hurt; for all of us. Bottom line: We care about what happens to poor Hsiao-kang. We want him to heal, to be okay with himself, to come to grips with who he is and what he wants, to get over his seemingly insurmountable obstacles (interpersonal as well as intrapersonal), and to find fulfillment(s) in life. Director Tsai Ming-Liang makes us like him. We yearn for Hsiao-kang's happiness, and we cheer him on... We would like to see a sequel to "Vive L'amour" in which Hsiao-kang continues his life's heroic journey, and hangs onto life's balance-beam courageously. And come to possess the man of his dreams too! We want that for him. Everybody needs to love and to be loved in this universe. In Buddhism we are taught that "the meaning of life is to be happy and to make others happy." This movie is a very effective "Part 1" or prequel to that much-wished-for denoument for this very brave young character. Our heart goes out to him, and to his creator."
Beauty -- but be aware!
Maxim Voronov (firstname.lastname@example.org) | Connecticut College, USA | 01/05/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film is by no means easy viewing: no soundtrack, virtualy no dialogue, extremele static camera work. But this is filmmaking at the highest level. The film says all it wants to say about love (or lack thereof) and loneliness without rsorting to conventions. Cinematography is perfect, and acting is subtle and superb. Do not expect to be entertained. However, if you are looking for a movie that will challenge you to think, this one is for you."