Modern City in Vive L'Amour

Dana Bustamante

Vive L��Amour portrays urban life in Taiwan as empty of any meaningful interaction. The world of the film is one of complete isolation and a lack of communication or expression. Each character fills a meaningless role in society, and their individuality is suppressed by the modern society. In the film, the only similarity between characters is that they all smoke cigarettes, an addictive consumer product used to deal with stress and to fill empty space (both literally and figuratively). Space, specifically empty and unwanted space, plays a large role in the film. Two of the characters, May Lin and Hsiao Kang, sell space for a living. May Lin sells houses, or space for the living, while Hsiao sells columbariums, or space for the dead. These two, like Ah Jung, who sells clothes on the street, fail to find success, showing that their jobs, in addition to their lives, are meaningless. The film gives us a strong sense of a city full of empty, unwanted space, and relates this space to the lives of the city-dwellers.
A very noticeable characteristic of the film is a lack of dialogue. The characters never really engage in any meaningful conversation. Most of the talking in the film occurs over the phone, a sign of isolation brought by modern technology. Other speaking occurs as part of business, such as one person trying to sell something to another, or telling a waitress an order. When May Lin tries to sell one man a house, she talks a great deal to him about the benefits of the house, but he does not give a single word in response. Dialogue, traditionally a mode of expression, a tool for individuality, and a way to connect to others, is now limited to capitalistic pursuits or very basic, necessary communication.
Social repression also plays an important role in the film. Aside from being unable to communicate vocally, the characters seem incapable of expressing their feelings, desires, or individuality due to societal constraints. This is seen particularly in the case of Hsiao Kang. We see this young man��s creativity and capability for intense passion and inventiveness in the scene in which he dresses up as a woman. Because his homosexuality and cross-dressing are considered deviant in the modern society, this side of Hsiao Kang remains hidden. His individuality is also shown when he kisses the melon and then bowls with it in the empty apartment. The melon, cold and hard on the outside, explodes to reveal juicy, succulent, colorful flesh. It seems that each person living in the city has this same rich core inside, but it is repressed by the greater society.
In the film, the characters find themselves in strange relationships. Despite of a great possibility for love and meaningful interaction, they remain distant from one another, even in the most intimate situations. May Lin and Ah Jung occasionally come together in the empty apartment, but their dealings are purely physical, and once again lack any dialogue whatsoever. Both are unable to communicate their feelings to one another, although we see that May Lin longs for a true intimate relationship. Hsiao Kang once again is unable to express his desires to Ah Jung. In one scene, he hides under the bed while Ah Jung and May Lin have sex. Later, when May Lin leaves, he lays on the bed next to Ah Jung. We see that he desires to be with Ah Jung, while simultaneously realizing that this desire is unacceptable. He hesitates to come close to Ah Jung, just as he hesitates to reveal himself to society. Ah Jung��s eyes remain closed, ignorant of Hsiao Kang��s individual nature, just as society��s eyes are closed to May Lin when she cries for the last ten minutes of the film. Modern society is depicted in the most extreme, repressive manner possible, leaving no room for individuality or expression.

Vive L'Amour est Impossible

Joe Besl

From the first silent seconds to the last silent segments, Vive L'Amour is an excruciating journey through the lonely loveless lives of three confused Chinese youth. The film is set in Taipei, one of the numerous industry-driven cities in China, and the film gravitates around the unfortunate commercial society that success in this city demands. A common theme in Vive L'Amour, like many other Chinese movies, is the false value which states that the harder one works, the more money and happiness one should hope to find. The three characters in the film display the exact opposite side of this notion by going from day to day substituting superficial relationships to take their mind off of their miserable condition.

According to the film, people hardly talk in Taipei. This notion is hard to believe, but director Ming-liang Tsai primarily shows these silent situations as a way of expressing the paradoxical loneliness in crowded cities. Out of the few conversations in the movie, only a few exist among the three main characters while the rest are held over telephone lines with unidentified people. Daily life in a commercial city often mimics this situation: the millions of people who pass each other on busy city sidewalks never take the time to hold a conversation. Cellular phones and the personal automobile have essentially erased any need for face-to-face conversations.
The characters May Lin, Ah Jung, and Hsiao Kang live in the city and thus are forced to endure this inescapable atmosphere of solitary confinement each day. With no home of their own, the three find themselves living in the same abandoned apartment every night. Although all the characters hold steady jobs, they never appear to further themselves in their line of work: each remains unhappy, unnoticed, and completely devoid of material possessions such as their own apartment. The situation clearly has a dire effect on May Lin, who is constantly ignored at work only to come "home" to her superficial lifestyle each night. She demands control but the business world will not allow it. She looks for conversation but continually comes up short. She starves for human contact but even her sexual encounters with her roommate Ah Jung seem empty. By the end of the day all May Ling wants is pleasure but all she finds is her own reflection in the mirror, another reminder that she is still alone. On multiple occasions, May Ling is seen crying for extended periods of time about her emotional disconnectedness. She did not choose this way of life, but Taipei chose it for her. May Ling is essentially a victim of Taipei, where happiness takes a backseat to success.

It seems impossible that someone could be alone in a bustling city, but the three characters in Vive L'Amour prove that loneliness is still a prevalent problem in modern society. Advancements such as cell phones, jet planes, and the internet make the world feel a little bit smaller but at the same time individual people feel smaller as well. May Ling has no hope of making her mark in a city like Taipei because she, like many others, is so easily overlooked as just another member of the work force. This neglect creates a severe feeling of inadequacy in May Ling's life. It is impossible to live the love, like the title of the film suggests, when one cannot love themselves first.

Mort L'Amour

Lee Stablein

Chinese cinema, like all art media, has its share of cynics, but Cai Mingliang may be the king of them all, if we��re to judge from his film Vive L��Amour. Though named to conjure images of love and life, the film is a lesson in the emptiness of urban living, at least for the characters - if we can call them such - he focuses on.
The camera follows three people throughout the film. Ms. Lin is a real estate agent who never makes a sale; Ah Rong is a black market street vendor, who also fails to ever sell any of his illegal apparel; Xiao Kang is a columbarium salesman, whose unsuccessful tactic is mass mailings that he never follows up. The three are brought together by an empty apartment in the care of Lin; the two men are squatters there, and Ah Rong also has sex with Ms. Lin there. However, it��s a stretch to really call any of these people characters, at least in the traditional sense of the term. They say practically nothing, and their daily routine changes in only nuanced ways; for example, one day Xiao Kang purchases a melon, which he kisses, then carves holes in and bowls into the wall of the apartment. In fact, Xiao Kang foreshadows the direction of the film with his second action; he slits his wrist (after far too much effort), presumably as a half-hearted suicide attempt, and in doing so signals just how pitiful these characters are.
The idea of space is a critical one in this film, and is truly the centre of attention. From the absence of dialogue and the inaction of the cast to the places they go, there is an abundance of emptiness. More importantly, it��s an emptiness that comes as part of being unwanted, which cuts to the heart of the film. All the apartments that Lin is selling have been moved out of, and have no prospective buyers. They are spaces that no one wants to inhabit, and that Ms. Lin is constantly in those spaces is no coincidence. Ms. Lin is every bit as unwanted and empty as those apartments. Similarly, Xiao Kang sells a space that can only be inhabited by the dead, and what do we see him do mere minutes into the film but try to kill himself. There is a sense that the only space he can occupy satisfactorily is that columbarium; the living certainly don��t want him, and his status as a squatter reinforces that. There is no space for him in the animated world. Finally, Ah Rong��s ��profession�� takes him to the most empty space of all, the open street, where he lays out his wares at night and waits for someone to show interest. That no one ever approaches him is telling - no one is interested in him, and he, like Xiao Kang and Ms. Lin, is left to inhabit the spaces no one else wants.
Sex is the tool that reveals the extent of the cast��s emptiness. In desperation (which is not immediately apparent, but very present), Lin and Ah Rong hook up silently and go back to the apartment. This happens twice in the film - not a word is said, they simply find each other and move - and the second time is even more important than the first. Xiao Kang, to avoid being caught squatting, hides under the bed when he hears the door open. While Ah Rong and Lin are engaged in intercourse, the camera switches to Xiao Kang, who is masturbating beneath the mattress (it has been revealed earlier that he is homosexual). This scene captures in a few minutes three people who are absolutely desperate for some sort of inter-personal connection. After she and Ah Rong are done, Lin dresses and quietly leaves, her need temporarily satisfied, and Xiao Kang emerges and tentatively takes her place.
The film closes with Lin sitting in an empty amphitheatre in a park crying, a scene that lasts 10 minutes (8 of which are gratuitous). Cai Mingliang seems to be implying that for all the bustle and superficial filler of urban life, the residents of the city are ultimately empty on any level that is substantial. The constant activity, noise, and the everywhere-material exist in such a way that meaningful relationships and work are impossible. The result is a city of empty people with tenuous bonds and hollow existences, just waiting to die and fill a columbarium.

The Detachment of Modern Living in Vive L'Amour

David Yontz

The film Vive L��amour, directed by Ming-liang Tsai, is a stark and minimalist portrait of the depravity of modern urban life in China. It is characterized by ample use of empty space and extended moments of silence, elements that help to create an eerily empty and lifeless atmosphere that mirrors the inner feelings of detachment nurtured by the three central characters.
These characters are May Lin, a lonely real estate agent who tries to sell empty houses to unreceptive customers; Ah Jung, a homeless loner who makes ends meet through selling women��s clothing by night in Taipei; and Hsiao Kang, a homeless crematorium space salesman with suicidal tendencies and a homosexual orientation. Together these lonely individuals occupy an empty apartment that May Lin is in the process of selling, and that ultimately becomes a symbol for the situation of their lives. Like the apartment, each character��s life is empty.
For example, we see that as a real estate agent May Lin is a failure. Her clients repeatedly reject the empty houses she tries to sell to them. In the same way that she is selling empty houses, May Lin is also, in a sense, selling her body to Ah Jung when she has one night stands with him in the apartment. The sex they have is devoid of emotional affection. Rather, it is an empty cycle of bodily motions. Just as she fails to make any connection with her customers when she tries to sell them empty houses, May Lin fails to make any emotional connection with Ah Jung when having sex with him. As a result, though on the surface she appears to be fine, May Lin leads an empty life.
We also see detachment in the life of Ah Jung, such as when he uses the apartment as a place to masturbate. For Ah Jung, masturbation appears to be no different than actually having sex with May Lin. Like their sex, it is a purely physical, pleasure seeking experience. We also see that, in addition to masturbation, Ah Jung has a penchant for cigarettes and beer, substances used purely for the purpose of experiencing pleasure. Thus, we see Ah Jung��s life is nothing but a continual search for primal pleasure. In this sense, Ah Jung��s life is also empty.
Likewise, Hsiao Kang demonstrates detachment in his extreme loneliness. One scene in particular that captures the essence of Hsiao Kang��s isolation is one in which passionately kisses a piece of fruit, so caught in the throes of loneliness that he is forced to create imaginary partners. However, Hsiao Kang��s pretending that the fruit is a person is essentially no different from the other two characters�� pretending that the apartment belongs to them or that their sex is romantic or that they are leading meaningful lives, when in fact their existence is nothing but a continual cycle of empty carnal pleasures.
Thus, Ming-liang Tsai has transformed the empty apartment as into a metaphor for the empty lives of its three inhabitants. He is making a statement about the emptiness of modern city life, which for so many people, like the characters in the movie, is nothing but a meaningless quest for pleasure that ultimately cannot lead to true fulfillment. This notion is brought to a head in the haunting final scene, an extended shot of May Lin crying, finally unleashing the repressed emotions she has kept bottled up for the entire film and revealing the depressed state one is destined to reach living in such a shallow fashion. Taken to a higher level, her uncontrollable weeping may be seen as a lamentation by Ming-liang Tsai of the depravity of the modern urban life style, and therefore a fitting conclusion to an artistic and subtly powerful film.

Vive La Solitude

Emma Powell

Vive L��Amour is a visual representation of the phenomenon of disconnectedness in contemporary Chinese society. The social alienation is portrayed through three individuals who unknowingly share the same living space. The film points a finger at commercialism as the cause of the disconnection. The film is a series of scenes showing in narrative form the few days in which the lives of the three characters intersect. The characters crave communication yet do not know how to connect with others.
Throughout the film the characters attempt to fill this void with other actions. They all smoke and drink and eat. Ah Rong smokes and drinks in a compulsory way that suggests it means more to him than thirst, hunger, or addiction. He is replacing the lack of human interaction with cigarettes and alcohol. Ms. Lin and Ah Rong have sex for the same reason trying to be close to someone in a false intimacy. They are trying to fill the same void. They obviously do not actually connect in anything but a superficial and sexual way, which is why Ms. Lin breaks down at the end of the film. Xiao Kang is ready to give up life entirely at the beginning. He tries to kill himself as a way to escape the lonely society. He is not successful so he moves onto other way to fill his intense need for intimacy. He kisses a melon, dresses in women��s clothes, masturbates, and finally kisses Ah Rong while he is sleeping. Xiao Kang is sexually confused or decidedly gay it is not made clear. Either way he is so distressed by the loneliness and lack of social contact that he wanted to kill himself. It is also interesting that he tries to kill himself when he works as a salesman for a columbarium, a place to house urns after people die. Maybe since he sells urns he is more used to the idea of death and so welcomes it more.
Ms. Lin works as a real-estate agent. She sells empty apartments and buildings. She does not have people working with her. During the film she is shown mostly alone. When she is with customers she is trying to connect with them in order to get them to buy the places. She does not have genuine conversations. She parks her car across the street and is constantly ignoring the sign that says she will be fined if she jaywalks. The sign is a signifier for the cities total social separation. This suggests that their situations are systematic and maybe even universal. That the modern world of commercialism and electronics has left people mentally isolated. Each character is a salesman of some sort but during the entire movie none is successful. Nothing is sold. Ah Rong sells clothes illegally on the street. When Ms. Lin asks he talks up his profession to make himself sound more important. That is basically their only conversation. This shows the deafening silence of commercialism that isolates people into strange spaces.
The characters are in close proximity to each other and I found that was about how the society was so distant that three people could live together and hardly know one another. They glide around barely missing each other. The film is full of close calls where you think someone is going to be found out. Ah Rong caught Xiao Kang but since Ah Rong is also not supposed to be there he does not do anything to make him leave. The lack of dialogue is another symbol of the loneliness of their situations. There is no communication. Even the outdoor scenes are basically empty of discourse. The film does not give a solution but simply leaves us to ponder the state of the human condition in contemporary urban society

A Ghost Story

Derick Florian

Vive L'amour, directed by Ming-liang Tsai, portrays the lives of three lonely individuals in Taipei, Taiwan. One of the most interesting aspects in this movie lies in how space is explored. May Lin, a real estate saleswoman, has no noticeable personal life throughout the movie. Even when she does talk to someone on the phone, Ming-liang Tsai does not make us aware of another person on the other end of the phone. Moreover, the one time she does receive a call from a character with whom the viewer is familiar, Ah Jung, the call is lost midway through the conversation. Her nonmoving real estate, many empty apartments, mirrors her life. These empty physical spaces signify a greater emotional void inside May Lin. If May Lin's properties represent a personal void, Hsiao Kang also suffers from the same condition. Hsiao Kang, sells crematorium space for a living. Like May Lin, he cannot sell any of this empty space. Ah Jung sells clothes on the street at night, but does not sell empty space. His experiences, however, are by no means irrelevant. The space Ah Jung occupies when selling clothes seems to have a force field around it. Not once during the movie does anyone stop at his stand or even display interest in his products. At one point, May Lin even passes by his stand on the street, as if to signify that these characters could not connect with each other, even with the closest proximity. Although, Ah Jung does not sell empty space but still cannot get rid of his personal empty space. These three characters joint inability to sell there product represents a hollowness they cannot escape. Additionally, it seems they do not sell any of there products because they do not interact with people. May Lin becomes metaphorically trapped in an apartment and loses the key. Likewise, Hsiao Kang's ghost-like presence, due to his failure to communicate with anyone meanifully, remains trapped in a columbarium.

Another curious use of space arises when all three main characters occupy the same space. Ah Jung, Hsiao Kang, and May Lin inhabit the same apartment at the same time on two different occasions. The circumstances of each event but they both seem to hint at isolation. In the first instance, Hsiao Kang tries to commit suicide in one room as Ah Jung and May Lin engage in casual intercourse. Hsiao Kang's attempt at killing himself obviously represents an attempt to escape the empty room and life that he had. In the other room, meanwhile, Ah Jung and May Lin's sexual encounter seemed completely lacking in passion. They were as close as could be yet unable to connect with each other. They were so commanded by their own personal voids that they all were unable to enjoy being lonely with each other. The second scene played out similarly. Ah Jung and May Lin came into the room to have another one night stand. This time, though, Hsiao Kang found himself trapped in the room and decided to hide under the bed. This scene signified sexually their isolation. Although three people in the room had sexual experiences, they all seemed to be occurring worlds apart from each other. Hsiao Kang masturbates under the bed as Ah Jung and May Lin have another impassionate encounter.
The ultimate message of Ming-liang Tsai's production seems to be modernity's ghosts. Three people from all walks of life disconnect completely from everyone else and cannot integrate themselves into a social situation. The escape comes in the form of attempted suicide, or casual sex. Whatever the means of escapism are, the outcome is similar. These people continue to float through society, unnoticed by even those whom they see on a daily basis.

Buying Yourself to Death: Lonely Modernity in Taipei

Dan Griffin

Many different themes popped out at me the first time that I thought about this film. Obviously, issues such as the relationship between life, death, and loneliness were being explored in here, but something else stuck in my mind. Images such as the Budweiser can constantly being held by Ah-jung, and the Coca cola signs that are peppered throughout this Taiwanese city constantly reinforce the consumer driven culture that exists here. Consider the images with the jobs that the only three characters in the film hold. May sells real estate, Ah-jung sells items on the street, and Hsiao-kang sells space at the local columbarium. All three sell something for a living, but what does this tell us about Taiwanese culture?

I believe that the director (Tsai Ming-liang) is trying to make a comment on the (what he perceives to be) negative impact market liberalization has that has occurred in Taiwan. I think that it is safe to say that none of the three main characters of this film are in a happy situation. In fact, the only image of happy people that we see in this film is that of Hsiao-kang's co-workers who are dancing around while he is left out. This is a very important scene in this film. A very important theme that we have seen many times this semester is that of the little guy being left out of China's big economic picture. Economic liberalization can leave people out, and in this scene we see the little guy Hsiao-kang being left out without care by his successful, happy co-workers.
Turning now to the other characters, May and Ah-jung, who are firmly engrossed in this consumer based culture so much that it affects all aspects of their lives. May is of course a real estate agent who uses some of the apartments that have not been sold as places where Ah-jung and she can have sex. She appears to work very hard at her job, even though most of her customers never take notice of her. It also appears that she works very long days, with very little actual success on the job. Ah-jung seems to be in a similar situation. When we don't see May or Ah-jung working or having sex, we see them buying drinks, looking around at the movie theatre, peering into shop windows, things like this, following each other through this consumer based Taiwan. The modern world that May and Ah-jung live in has trapped them in such a way that they can not escape. This film depicts a lonely modern world, where everyone is focused on selling what they have to offer, and those who are not successful at selling have nothing.
Interestingly, the ending of this film does not give the audience a "way out" for these characters. We see May walking down a lonely path past empty benches and billowing smokestacks in the background. Then, May retreats to what I perceive to be an empty amphitheatre for an extended cry, and the film ends with this lasting impression on the audience. As we can see by the image of the smokestacks billowing in the background, "progress" (be it Taiwanese, Chinese, or American) does not slow down for anyone.

Miscommunication and Frustration

Frank King

The movie Vive L'Amour directed by Ming-Liang Tsai is a two hour torture-fest. Thought the movie ostensibly has a deep message it is frustrated at every turn by the directors attempts to portray it. The theme as far as I have been able to discern is miscommunication, and ironically the movie succeeds very well in not delivering this message in a way that can be easily absorbed by the audience. The only was [way] we (our class) came upon the message was extensive deliberation, which many of us were keen not to participate in, so painful was the movie to watch. In a situation where there is no compulsory discussion of a movie the message would be completely missed.
The first obvious clue I found to the miscommunication theme was the telephone calls. Over the course of the movie there are four or five telephone calls made or received, and not one of them ends in ��Good-bye�� and then a hang up. They all end either by someone loosing [losing] their cell phone signal or running out of change for a pay phone. I found this fact to be a very interesting piece of trivia, but I [it] was not obvious that it was linked to a greater theme. In every call all of the important information is communicated before the call ends, only the ending ��good-bye's are cut off, making it a weak symbol for miscommunication, what does it matter if you can't talk to someone if you have already told them everything you needed too? The phone calls are also small bits of speech in a giant morass of silence, they stand out, and by that virtue seem not to fit with the rest of the films awkward silence. This takes power away from the calls by their seemingly pointless inclusion in the world of silence, and away from the world of silence by making it imperfect.
The silence in and of itself is not particularly frustrating to me; I have learned to deal with it from movies that use a lot of orchestral pieces and visuals instead of dialogue (mainly French movies). What is frustration is the lack of compensation for the absence of speech. In the French movies I mentioned when there is silence there is memorably music, usually classical European. It gives feeling to the movie, sets the stage for whether the movie is sad or happy or suspenseful or in furious action. There was none of this in this movie, I cannot remember at any point the music making an impression on my. [me] This forces the visual to stand alone, and it is not enough. Take for instance the final scene, where May Lin is walking through the park under construction. There is no explanation, through dialogue, narration, music, or visual clues (signs), as to where she is going. And when she reached the amphitheater and cries there is no reason given why she is crying. We supposed in class that it was because of her solitude, but for all we know about her it could be that her father just passed away. The lack of exposition makes the pieces of this movie that are to reinforce the ��message�� of the movie appear suspect.
Through this lack of a cohesive message and background information to tie the pieces together this movie presents an increasingly frustrating movie that end [ends] with no explanation of what happens to the three main characters. The director was correct in thinking that a film needs to be made condemning the failure of modern people to communicate, but this movie is part of the problem, not the solution.

Freedom's Jail-Cell

Leda Rodis

Vive L'Amour, directed by Ming-liang Tsia, is a film dedicated to challenging the idea that modernity promotes freedom. The film follows the lives of three characters, May Lin, Ah Jung, and Hsiao Kang, all of whom share an empty apartment in Taiwan. Through the lack of dialogue and the emptiness of the interpersonal relationships, Ming-liang Tsia shows us the utter disconnectedness of the characters to anything emotionally real. It is a movie exemplifying the absolute alienation of modern Taiwanese youth, an alienation enhanced by their sexual, economical, and emotional freedom. Indeed, it is their absolute freedom that becomes their ultimate imprisonment.
Through the character of May Lin, we can perhaps best see the completely crushing isolation that is (according to Ming-liang Tsia's film) Taiwanese modern life. While May Lin may seem to represent the ideal Taiwanese youth (economically sound, sexually free, emotional unburdened) it is this very freedom that renders everything in her life transient and flimsy. Even within her sexual relationships (something expected to be approached with feeling and tenderness) she maintains a distance that kills any hope of an emotionally substantial relationship. And because she is unable to form loving bonds (something perhaps seen as a restriction of freedom), May Lin almost ceases to exist. Without the love of others, May Lin becomes a ghost in an uncaring and indifferent world. Though the bonds of a relationship may seem to disable complete freedom, it is this very emotional imprisonment that May Lin yearns for.
May Lin's character, while herself completely alienated from the world around her, consequently alienates the audience. In a film where love is anything but prevailing, the viewer is hard-pressed to connect to the characters and their situations. Instead, one is left with the very feeling of indifference that the world feels towards May Lin and her ��roommates��. While we pity May Lin, we feel as trapped by her inability to connect as she is, leaving us rather irritated by her dilemma. The brilliance of the film lies not simply in the cutting portrayal of a woman lost in the clockwork of modernity, but in pulling the audience into the machine as well. Everyone in the film is trapped (and we as an audience are trapped as well) inside the jail-cell that is freedom and modernity.

The Jail Cell of Loneliness

Kara Gongaware

The film Vive L'Amour by Ming-liang Tsia defines the type of freedom as alienation causing a prison within each person in the movie because they do not have anything that is settled or permanent in their lives. They have no families to care for so they only have to focus on the success of their own lives. Of course, all three Ah-Jung, May Lin, and Hsiao Kang consider their lives a failure because they are so lonely. After all, Hsiao Kang attempted to kill himself at the ��apartment.�� Ah-Jung and May Lin used the place for their sexual needs, despite the fact that their boring lives were represented in their passionless sex which added to their lonely lives.
The open ��apartment�� which is for sell, but Ah-Jung, May Lin, and Xiao-Kaong used it for their own purposes. The "apartment" is a place that for each person is an escape from their reality. It is apparent that they all hate their jobs and need some place to escape. After all, Hsiao Kang sells columbarium spaces, May Lin is a real-estate agent selling ruin down and dilapidated places, and Ah-Jung sells clothing in the ��black market�� on the street at night. To add to the representation of loneliness, no one wants to buy their items. In fact when a customer comes to look at a place that May Lin is selling they almost completely ignore her; as though she does not exist or as though she is a ghost. (Of course, she is not a ghost, but the interaction between her and her customers makes her seem to be ghost-like.) The apartment was ��depersonalized�� which defined the emptiness in their lives. The fact that there are no personal items decorating the place also indicated the lack of background of May Lin and the others. Even at May Lin's ��home�� in the city, not the ��apartment,�� there seems to be little in the way of personalizing. May Lin, in the concluding scene, also shows her obvious loneliness when she cries for minutes on end because she is aware that she has no substantial relationship and that everything that she knows is superficial.
Poor, Hsiao Kang is wrestling with his homosexuality, which adds to his loneliness because in China homosexuality is not discussed and is looked down on. Ah-Jung just does not seem to fit into society during the day. As a result he works at night, hoping that the darkness of night will hide what he does not want people to see. These are people who feel unconnected from society. The movie is for audiences who do not feel connected to others and have a life without love or responsibility for others. These are the type of people who understand this movie.
I did not understand this movie and found it to be one that depicted lives of many people already in reality. However, it did not depict my life as I have loved ones I care for and responsibilities to others as well as to myself. I found this film a difficult one to follow because it depressed me so much. The director was obviously trying to depict sadness and loneliness in its silence and the film is very artsy in the camera angles, but the actors were not exceptionally good.

Barren Wasteland

Hernan Amaya

The movie Vive L'amour centers around three characters in Taipei, Taiwan's capital. The movie illustrates the alienation and loneliness that people suffer in the city. The people in this movie have trouble connecting with other individuals in the city and are ghosts within a city that has a population of about six million. All these characters seem to be living an empty life with no dreams and aspirations and the director portrays the meaningless [meaninglessness] of urban life with the lives of the three characters.
May Lin is a young attractive real estate agent spending all her time trying to sell houses and apartments. Every now and then she runs into Ah Jung and they go back to her apartment and have sex. Before and during intercourse they don't say one word to each other and May Lin likes to be in control of the situation by rejecting every time he tries to kiss her. She does not let him take her clothes off but prefers to take them off herself. These encounters between Ah Jung and May Lin go to show the lack of communication and connection that exist in the city. May Lin appears not to exist. In one scene she is showing a man an apartment and describing the apartment to him trying to be conversational but the man does not respond. He continues to look around not acknowledging her existence. She is also lonely and does not know how to deal with that. While she is falling asleep she begins to caress a person next to her that does not exist. She tries to deal with her loneliness by having intercourse with Ah Jung but even that is void of any emotion.
Hsiao Kang happens to be a ghost to the rest of the world. He sells empty space for the dead and has no friends. He sleeps in an apartment that is for sale and can't seem to connect with anybody just like all the characters.
Ah Jung seems to be the less worried out of the three about anything that goes on but his life is just as meaningless. He lives in the empty apartment with Hsiao Kang and sells women clothing on the street. However, nobody seems to buy anything from him or even stop and look at the dresses he has. The customers stop and look at the other street vendors merchandise but they always seem to skip him. He is a ghost, just like Hsiao Kang and May Lin his existences does not seem to matter.
A prevalent theme in this movie is empty space. In the lengthy final scene, May walks through what seems like a construction site. She walks for minutes on end and there is nothing but empty space in her background. She finally arrives at a place where there are hundreds of benches but nobody is sitting on them. The apartment in which Hsiao Kang, Ah Jung, and May Lin all reside is completely empty. Hsiao Kang sells empty space for the dead. Everybody's life is empty, devoid of meaning. All this empty space goes to show how there is no connection between people and how meaningless peoples lives are in the city.

Love Is Dead

Chad Brown

Vive L'amour, directed by Cai Mingliang is a film which contrary to its name, is about the death of romantic love and meaningful relationships in modern society. The story follows the lives of three people who live in contemporary Taiwan. May Lin is a real estate agent in Taipei; Ah Jung is a homeless man who sells women's clothes in a ��night market,�� and Hsiao Kang is another young homeless man who is also a crematorium space salesman.
These three young Taiwanese people share a connection through one of the houses that May Lin is attempting to sell. She has sex with Ah Jung one night, and while she is not looking, he takes the key to the house. After she leaves, Ah Jung basically moves into the house as if it is his own. One night when returning from his job, Ah Jung discovers that someone else is in the house. This intruder turns out to be Hsiao Kang, who is also homeless and lonely. Hsiao Kang also moves into the house and becomes a sort of roommate to Ah Jung.
This paragraph above seems to be a plot summary for some one who has not seen the film; it does not tell the reader/viewer anything more than what s/he has seen.
Meanwhile, May Lin returns to the house to check for her missing key but never finds it. It seems that her job proves to be unfruitful, as she is never able to sell a house to anyone. Not only is she unhappy with her job, but she is also lonely. She spends large amounts of time just looking at herself in the mirror and trying on makeup, seemingly for lack of anything better to do. At the conclusion of the film, May Lin returns to the house and sleeps with Ah Jung again. She then wakes up in the morning only to find that her car will not start, and walks for a long time, aimlessly. The closing sequence shows her crying for several minutes, as it seems that she has finally come face to face with her loneliness.
This paragraph above seems to be a plot summary for some one who has not seen the film; it does not tell the reader/viewer anything more than what s/he has seen.
The theme of this film seemed to be that life in modern Taiwan has become devoid of meaningful human interaction. This can be seen in several instances within the film. There is very little dialogue between any of the characters within the film. Even Ah Jung and Hsiao Kang rarely speak to each other, even though living in the same house. Each character seems to display their longing for meaningful relationships, or ��love�� in different ways. May Lin spends hours in front of her mirror trying on makeup, most likely for lack of anything better to do. She seems to attempt to fill her void by having casual sex with Ah Jung. Ah Jung, on the other hand, is trying to satisfy his sexual desires. When he is not having sex with May Lin, he is looking at pornographic magazines. Hsiao Kang's loneliness seems to be expressed through some of his strange behaviors, which he only displays when he believes that no one is looking. These behaviors include making out with a melon, dressing up as a woman, and masturbating under Ah Jung's bed.
Although each character is unique, the one thing that they seem to have in common is loneliness, and this seems to be the basis of the bonds between characters. Ah Jung and May Lin just use each other for sex, and Ah Jung and Hsiao Kang seem to be connected on the basis that they are both homeless. Cai Mingliang seems to be criticizing the lack of meaningful human interaction in modern society as a whole also, as not even the minor characters within the film engage others in much dialogue. If the three protagonists represent three average young people, modern society as a whole also has this problem, and not just them.
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