As the new millennium dawns, Vicky (Qi Shu) balances separate love affairs with abusive, drug-smoking Hao-Hao (Chun-hao Tuan) and paternal petty gangster Jack (Jack Kao) in Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s exquisite Millennium Mambo. Narrated (in hindsight) by Vicky from the year 2011, the film’s splintered, flashback-heavy narrative nominally concerns Vicky’s tumultuous two romances, though the storyline is – even more than usual for Hou – largely inconsequential. Supposedly part of a trilogy about Taiwanese youth culture, Millennium Mambo is similar to Hou’s superior Goodbye South, Goodbye in that both chart small-timers’ aimless search for money, love, or, at least, some fleeting feeling of genuine human connection. As is his custom, Hou frames his bored, detached protagonist (who, in a telling early scene, lies motionless as Hao-Hao sexually ravages her body) in doorways and hallways, thus visualizing Vicky’s inability (or unwillingness) to abandon her vacant, static existence for something more fulfilling. Nonetheless, Vicky’s narration alludes to her eventual evolution, as does the ravishing opening sequence (seemingly set in 2011) in which she prances down a deserted walkway and – one can sense – away from the tedium and madness of her former life. Despite its techno-enhanced rhythm and stunning cinematography by In the Mood for Love’s Mark Lee Ping-bin – who uses bold, primary colors to create a pulsating vision of Taiwan nightlife – there’s a noticeable redundancy about Hou’s latest. But as proven by moments like Vicky leaving a temporary face-print in the snow – one of the film’s many stirring visions of the transitory nature of life – even a minor Hou effort is brimming with poignant artistry.