Much has been made of Hou Hsiao-hsien’s departure from the past for Millennium Mambo’s present; although his style and attitude on his subjects maintains preserved, the objective examination is languid, but compellingly rich in detail.The ossature of the film, and of Vicky’s (Shu Qi) perambulation of the motions, does not seek to show new acuity in this type of avatar. It — they — are followed in a pacifistic query that does not judge decisions or outcomes. Fewer and fewer filmmakers are able to present an observation without gobbling up the obligation to serve an analysis or commentary on the unsuspecting subject matter. On a majority, the film is relatively celibate from emotions. Smiles are saved for the escapism offered in the trance music, or likely when the characters “pop dexies.” The occasional snow intermezzo in Yubari also provides for the unexpected (and vicarious) divertissement, but the reserved anabasis of one’s sentiments is often when self-discovery takes place. At times, I’m lead to believe that Hsiao-hsien is suggesting the facelessness, or lack of identity and connection that the youth of many Asian countries have become trapped by. The suggestion is not a trend, but a reoccurrence that has been examined and broached by Asian filmmakers during the past decade. Some might feel that Hou’s own lack of warmth towards the dilemma is a weak one by taking no stance, but it removes him from the narrow-minded pedagogy of his critics. His enthusiasm is rather dominant in the stylistic aesthetics utilized as his tools, especially a pattern in his narrative approach. The voice-over narration foretells a vague description of an impending future act, and advances after that by giving a visually-realized version. In essence, it sums up much of what the art of direction is: taking what’s in writing and putting it in pictures, through his eyes. But the mentality of Hsiao-hsien’s thematic experimentation is what proves so fresh and neoteric.