Daughter Of The Nile

This 1987 Taiwanese feature by Hou Hsiao-hsien (City of Sadness, The Puppet Master) is full of life and energy around the edges, but comes across as rather blurry and undefined at its center. The title refers to a popular Asian comic strip about an American girl who’s in love with an Egyptian king, and the plot largely concerns the relationship between Lin Hsiao-yang (played by Yang Lin, Taiwan’s most popular singer) and her brother Lin Hsiao-fang (Kao Jai), who’s involved with a group of petty gangsters. On the level of plot, Hou has edited his film pretty much against the grain, emphasizing various family relationships and leaving many aspects of the story vague (this leads to some continuity problems: one family pet, for instance, disappears without explanation and is later replaced by another). The director’s Ozu-like framing, which makes full use of domestic interiors, is striking, and the film has many interesting moments. But it’s difficult to shake off an overall sense that this is hackwork by a very talented filmmaker who deserves to be working with better material. (JR)

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