River

The River

3.0 3
Director: Tsai Ming-Liang

Cast: Lee Kang-Sheng, Lu Hsiao-Ling, Miao Tien

     
 

Tsai Ming-Liang's The River, the Taiwanese master's third feature, opens with a chance encounter between Xiao-Kang (Lee Kang-Sheng) and an old friend (Chen Shiang-Chyi), an unexpected meeting that sets this bleak and ultimately disturbing film on its course. Persuaded to accompany his friend to a film set where she works as a production assistant, Xiao-Kang is…  See more details below

Overview

Tsai Ming-Liang's The River, the Taiwanese master's third feature, opens with a chance encounter between Xiao-Kang (Lee Kang-Sheng) and an old friend (Chen Shiang-Chyi), an unexpected meeting that sets this bleak and ultimately disturbing film on its course. Persuaded to accompany his friend to a film set where she works as a production assistant, Xiao-Kang is recruited by the director to play a corpse floating in a polluted river. After the shoot, Xiao-Kang struggles to wash the river's stench off -- and begins to feel a twinge in his neck. Meanwhile, the movie shifts its attention to two other people, a middle-aged woman (Lu Hsiao-Ling) working as an elevator operator in a restaurant, and a man (Miao Tien) who alternates his time at McDonald's and a gay bathhouse. It's eventually revealed that the two are Xiao-Kang's parents, and that the three of them live together in a Taipei apartment building that's as much in need of repair as their relationship. As Xiao-Kang's neck pain lingers, the parents grow increasingly concerned and help him seek relief in both science and superstition, to no avail. A trip to a provincial healer becomes the last resort for the ailing Xiao-Kang and occasions a devastating twist that brings the movie to an unsettling close.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Eddy Crouse
In the world of Taiwanese auteur Tsai Ming-Liang, ennui isn't just a feeling. It's a way of life -- possibly even the definition of life. In The River, everything starts when a movie director (Ann Hui) wrangles Hsiao Kang (the poker-faced Lee Kang-sheng) into floating in Taipei's very polluted Tanshui River. Hsiao returns to his cramped apartment, where the unrelenting rain outside forms a backdrop for the nearly silent life he lives with his father and mother, and soon everyone scatters for their own strange journeys of self-discovery. Mother tries an affair with a video bootlegger; Father cruises McDonald's and sometimes ends up in a gay bathhouse; and Hsiao wanders, trying to cure a mysterious and poetic crick in his neck. Tsai's splendid, precise visual style renders the loneliness, pain, and isolation of his characters as slightly absurd, making The River still the least predictable of the director's weepies. Not since Gene Kelly has anyone achieved such sublime emotional mileage out of so many torrents of rain.
All Movie Guide
Perhaps the most harrowing of Tsai Ming-Liang's meditations on urban isolation and communication breakdown, The River is a reliably demanding exponent of the Taiwanese filmmaker's cinema. Set in Taipei like his other movies (save for parts of What Time Is It There?) and starring Tsai's regular troupe of players, the movie trains the director's unblinking gaze on the breakdown of the nuclear family. The River initially follows the misadventures of a poker-faced layabout, Xiao-Kang (Tsai alter ego Lee Kang-Sheng), but it eventually branches off to two other characters, a middle-aged man and woman (Miao Tien and Lu Hsiao-Ling). It's a testament to Tsai's ability to represent disconnectedness that it's not until well into the picture that we realize the three are a family, sharing the same dilapidated apartment in Taipei. The elliptical narrative focuses on the ailing Xiao-Kang and his quest for relief, but it's clear that his illness is a stand-in for a host of problems: family dysfunction, sexual confusion, urban anomie, and spiritual ache. Amplifying the sense of dislocation and dread is Tsai's rigorous mise-en-scène, which is occasionally (and thankfully) leavened by flashes of absurdist humor. Nearly wordless and always exacting, The River may be more punishing than Tsai's other works. Those who choose to stick with this admittedly difficult film, however, will be rewarded with a compelling variation on the Taiwanese auteur's obsessions and a conclusion that suggests the possibility of better days amid the wreckage of the present.

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Product Details

Release Date:
02/04/2003
UPC:
0720917534725
Original Release:
1997
Rating:
NR
Source:
Fox Lorber
Time:
1:55:00

Related Subjects

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Lee Kang-Sheng Lee Xiao-Kang
Lu Hsiao-Ling Mother
Miao Tien Father
Chen Chao-Jung Young Man At Sauna
Chen Shiang-Chyi Xiao-Kang's Girlfriend
Lu Chiao-Lin Mother's Lover
Ann Huei Film Director

Technical Credits
Tsai Ming-Liang Director,Screenwriter
Ku Chia-Chao Production Designer
Yang Chin-An Sound/Sound Designer
Chung Hu-Ping Executive Producer
Hsu Li-kong Producer
Wang Ming-Tai Asst. Director
Lee Paolin Production Designer
Liao Peng-Jung Cinematographer
Yang Pi-Ying Screenwriter
Chen Sheng-Chang Editor
Shiu Shun-ching Producer
Tsai Yi-Chun Screenwriter

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The River 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I wish I could give this movie less than 1 star because the correct rating would be ZERO stars. Hands down the worst movie I have ever seen... I wasted both my money and my time with it. It absolutely stinks...
Guest More than 1 year ago
The River is one the greatest movie ever made in the new asian cinema. It is not an easy movie of course, but if you allow yourself to follow its logic and poetry The River is a film to cherish and praise. This story about a disfuncionally family goes beyond the american independent cliché family; Taipei capitalism is protrayed by this family whose life seems to be sensesless and hopeless. Sex, the last drive to resist against this social nihilism, is even a worse choice when father and son will find out what chance can bring about. With What time is it there, The River is the Tsai' best film. A kind of East Antonioni, Tsai points out the hole of being or the urban angst in Tapei's contemporary life; When one of the caracther cries his tears are the ultimate gramatic of the urban soul: no redemption although truth shrines through it and somehow makes us feel stronger and alive.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am confused as to what happened in the sauna. It's obvious what happened, physically...but did either one of them know who the other was?? I know the father was upset, but was that anger after the fact? Did he want to help his son so bad that he did what he did, then afterwards feel guilty about it? And what happened at the end. Kinda confusing, and very disturbing.