Daughter of the Nile

Rated NR 1987

This 1987 Taiwanese feature by Hou Hsiao-hsien (Flight of the Red Balloon) is lively and energetic at its edges but rather blurry and undefined at its center. The title refers to a popular Asian comic strip about an American girl in love with an Egyptian king, and the plot largely concerns the relationship between a woman (played by Yang Lin, Taiwan's most popular singer) and her brother (Kao Jai), who's involved with a group of petty gangsters. On the level of plot, Hou has edited his film against the grain, emphasizing various family relationships and leaving many aspects of the story vague (which 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. In Chinese with subtitles. 109 min.

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