Trailer for Restoration of Tsai Ming-liang’s ‘Rebels of the Neon God’ Brings Taiwanese Classic to U.S. Shores

Written by on April 3, 2015 

rebels of the neon god tsai ming-liang

Whether or not Tsai Ming-liang was genuine when suggesting that his feature filmmaking days are now done, the body of work that’s been left behind is guaranteed to stand as one of the most significant of recent decades. Although several are currently a bit difficult to find, I’m not alone in expecting that they’ll continue building fine reputations until someone, somewhere rescues them from relative obscurity. Case in point: Rebels of the Neon God, his feature debut, is receiving the largest domestic exposure yet courtesy of Big World Pictures, who are giving the picture its first U.S. theatrical release in a new, digital restoration.

This patient, delicately layered depiction of life in Taipei cannot be encompassed in only a two-minute preview, but here’s a good piece that provides some energy indicative of Rebels‘ wilder moments and Tsai’s work in general. (That, along with the revolting muck and unbearable physical discomfort that he implies is part and parcel of being in the city.) The appeal you might find here is not to be ignored. With an unclassifiable internal logic and certain underground appeal — just get some of that main theme — this is the sort of film just begging for a new generation’s discovery. Now that an expected upgrade in image quality is also a factor, we should expect Big World’s release to be one of the finest of 2015’s first half.

Have a look below (via Apple):


Tsai Ming-liang’s groundbreaking first feature, REBELS OF THE NEON GOD, already includes a handful of elements familiar to fans of subsequent work: a deceptively spare style often branded “minimalist;” actor Lee Kang-sheng as the silent and sullen Hsiao-kang; copious amounts of water, whether pouring from the sky or bubbling up from a clogged drain; and enough urban anomie to ensure that even the subtle humor in evidence is tinged with pathos. The loosely structured plot involves Hsiao-kang, a despondent cram school student, who becomes obsessed with young petty thief Ah-tze, after Ah-tze smashes the rearview mirror of a taxi driven by Hsiao-kang’s father. Hsiao-kang stalks Ah-tze and his buddy Ah-ping as they hang out in the film’s iconic arcade (featuring a telling poster of James Dean on the wall) and other locales around Taipei, and ultimately takes his revenge.

Rebels of the Neon God will enter a limited release on April 10 in New York and June 12 in Los Angeles.

Have you seen Tsai’s first feature? If not, do you plan on catching the film while it’s in theaters?

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