The River (1997)

"OK"

The River (1997) Review


Poor Xiao-Kang (Kang-sheng Lee). He went for a swim in a dirty river and now he's got a massive pain in the neck.

Xiao's attempts to fix that pain amount to the bulk of The River's running time, and you'll have to be an extremely patient film critic to suffer through Tsai Ming-Liang's (What Time Is It There?) ponderation on... well, nothing in particular.

Shot with his signature long, long takes and wide, wide angle lenses, we follow Xiao as he cranes his neck to one side, fails to get chopsticks-to-mouth, visits countless witch doctors in search of a cure, and has sex with his rotund father. What a sec -- huh!? Either Tsai is trying to blame Xiao's neck problems on a totally screwed up incest situation or he's gone insane. Either way, it's not really a movie that exactly grabs me by the brain stem.

To be sure, Tsai's camerawork and narrative restraint are unique and admirable -- and the film is compelling in a strange, abstract, slightly conceited sort of way -- but his sheer lack of a story here is baffling. Endless visits to chiropractors, acupuncturists, and shamans just do not a plot structure make. As for poking dad in the interim, well that's just sick.

Aka He liu.



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