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Taiwanese master Tsai Ming-liang had already formed his auteurist voice for his first feature, 1992’s now-legendary Rebels of the Neon God. The film already included elements characteristic of his subsequent work: a deceptively spare style; actor Lee Kang-sheng, a fixture in all of Tsai’s future films, as the sullen anti-hero; abundant rainfall; and enough urban anomie to ensure that even its subtle humour is tinged with pathos.
Rebels follows the despondent Hsiao-kang, a cram-school student obsessed with a young petty thief, Ah-tze (Chen Chao-jung), who smashed the side mirror on Hsiao-kang’s father’s taxi. Hsiao-kang stalks Ah-tze and his buddy Ah-ping before ultimately taking his revenge.
While showing influences of the French New Wave, early Wong Kar Wai, and, without a doubt, Rebel Without a Cause, Tsai’s debut is most remarkable for introducing his own unique vision to world cinema. The promise of Rebels of the Neon God was confirmed by his equally stunning follow-up, Vive L’Amour, which won the Golden Lion at Venice in 1994 and established him as a leader in Taiwan’s Second New Wave.
Programmed by TIFF’s Asian Heritage Month Staff Advisory Committee
Content advisories: sexually suggestive scenes, violence
This TIFF Cinematheque Presents title is co-branded as part of the Asia Unbound series. TIFF’s Asian Heritage Month programme is made possible thanks to the generous assistance of: Blockchain Venture Capital Inc., Canada Hong Kong Alliance – Toronto, Andy Chan, Elegant Financial Inc., Sharifa Khan/Balmoral Marketing, Alan Kwong, Irwin Li, Nobis Inc., and Justin Poy