Hou's first indie production was also a creative breakthrough, the film in which he turned away from commercial formulas and began experimenting with long takes, wide-angle shots and melodrama-free plotlines. Three young men from Fengkuei, a backwater village in the Penghu Islands, decamp to Kaohsiung, Taiwan's southern port, for what they think will be a life of laddish fun; like Fellini's Vitelloni, they are pushed towards maturity by encounters with crime, death, work and women. Hou soon went far beyond these rather obvious social and psychological observations, but the film retains a real freshness and charm; it launched several acting careers. The classical music track doesn't work in this context, but it's a small improvement on the Taiwanese version (three minutes longer, thanks to a now-cut theme song), which had a dreadul pop soundtrack.
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