Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s first film set entirely in present-day Taiwan, Goodbye South, Goodbye concerns two low-level gangster brothers – easygoing Gao (Jack Kao) and impulsive Flathead (Giong Lim) – who, along with their girlfriends Pretzel (Annie Shizuka Inoh) and Ying (Kuei-Yin Hsu), navigate the rural outskirts of Taipei trying to earn enough money to open a restaurant. However, since the director is more interested in atmosphere and conveying a sense of time’s relentless progression than he is with straightforward narrative clarity, Goodbye South, Goodbye is more elliptical mood piece than traditional gangster flick. Gao and Flathead organize illegal card games, attempt to sell pigs at inflated prices, and engage in a variety of other misbegotten business ventures, all the while drinking, smoking, and coasting through life with the vague, imperceptive grogginess of men incapable of seeing the forest from the trees. Hou’s trademark long takes and fondness for gliding dolly shots – including stunning views from the front and back of moving trains, shots of the brothers driving motorcycles through the lush forest, and the image of the city as seen through a car’s green-tinted windshield – convey the hazy aimlessness and insularity of Gao and Flathead’s lives, and their indifferent detachment from the world functions as a microcosm of modern Taiwanese youth’s disconnect from their social and cultural roots. From the film’s opening scene in which Gao fails to hear a caller on his cell phone, to the closing sounds of Flathead desperately (yet vainly) attempting to garner a response from Gao, Hou brilliantly evokes the isolation of a generation hopelessly cut off from its past.