A slow, low budget debut with little in the way of story development or conclusion, Rebels manages to enchant regardless due to compelling visual story telling paired with great acting and character work. I was not bothered by its slice of life type, but your mileage may vary as there are decidedly a lot of "people doing random things and talking" scenes. Though these contrast nicely with the strong use of silence.
It's almost hard to see this with fresh eyes after being saturated with so much East Asian cinematic ennui in the years since it came out. But Tsai was helping to lead the charge, and his aching modern malaise still resonates. Formal rigor, humor, and modulation of tone become more refined later, but the seeds are all here.
"... one of the great modern films about big cities and the...psychic toll of living in them." There's a "Rebel without a Cause" vibe here. Disenfranchised, disillusioned, disaffected youth moving through a souless world that cares less about them than they care about it. "....as muted and slow-burning as you expect a Tsai film to be, but just as often, it’s vibrant, nervy, altogether rock ’n’ roll".
Bleak with a side of bleak. The lead has great James Dean-esque sex appeal. The taxi driver's son lacks the ability to create anything, but he's creative with methods of destruction. Not sure if anything is cut and dry, except that the woman is setting herself up for terrible heartbreak. Also, people might want to leave notes when they duck out for cigarettes. It saves agony at home.
I always say it's interesting to see a great director's first film, because it shows the raw roots for which they build upon and Tsai Ming-Liang is no exception. This film shows the genesis of the distant love triangle, which he would later perfect in his follow up film Vive l'Amour, and his use of sparse dialogue. I think what's missing here is the longer takes, which would become one of his key ingredients...
(3.5 stars) Disaffected youth is not just a western problem it seems. They're EVERYWHERE! Heh. Kind of sad, lonely and depressing throughout most of this film. However, the director does a good job of capturing the essence of these characters through looks, behavior and very brief dialogue. It's really a solid film, even if the subject matter is a little bleak.
The elements of later Ming-Liang are all here, but so is a youthful energy that would later slip away in favor of more meditative minimalism. Joy is still a possibility, though fleeting as poverty ensnares it, slowly submerging everything like the water in the apartment. Capitalistic drudgery awaits to crush these characters, as explored in the director's next film Vive l'amour.