Hsiao-hsien Hou – Xi meng ren sheng aka The Puppetmaster (1993)


Hou Hsiao-hsien’s masterpiece about the childhood and early adulthood of octogenerian Taiwanese puppet master and actor Li Tien-lu. This is the second part of a trilogy about Taiwanese life in the 20th century, covering all but the first few years of the Japanese occupation of Taiwan (1895-1945). Hou’s preference for filming entire scenes in long takes from fixed camera angles and for eschewing close-ups has never been as masterfully employed and modulated as it is here–some of the landscape shots are breathtaking. The film alternates between re-created scenes from Li’s life, Li speaking directly to the camera about his past, and extracts from his puppet and stage performances, creating a layered density in the narrative that does full justice to the complexity and poetry of Hou’s investigation. Continue reading

Hsiao-Hsien Hou – Nie yin niang AKA The Assassin (2015)


The film is set during the mighty Tang Dynasty-period in Chinese history. Nie Yinniang returns to family after several years in exile. The mission of her order is to eliminate the tyrany of the Governors who avoid the authority of the Emperor. Now she will have to choose between sacrificing the man she loves, or break definitively with the “order of the Assassins”.

The Assassin (Chinese: 刺客聶隱娘) is a 2015 martial arts film directed by Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien. A Taiwan-China-Hong Kong co-production, it was an official selection in the main competition section at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. At Cannes, Hou won the award for Best Director.It was released in China on 27 August 2015. It was selected as the Taiwanese entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards. Continue reading

Hsiao-hsien Hou – Qian Xi Man Po AKA Millenium Mambo (2001)


Synopsis: Winner of the Grand Prix Technique at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival, Hou Hsiao Hsien’s MILLENNIUM MAMBO is a strikingly beautiful film set in Taipei’s hot nightclub scene. The remarkable Shu Qi stars as Vicky, a lost soul who hangs out… Winner of the Grand Prix Technique at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival, Hou Hsiao Hsien’s MILLENNIUM MAMBO is a strikingly beautiful film set in Taipei’s hot nightclub scene. The remarkable Shu Qi stars as Vicky, a lost soul who hangs out partying with her friends, smoking nonstop, and dancing and flirting. She lives with Hao-Hao (Tuan Chun-hao), but he doesn’t seem to excite her anymore, so she starts seeing an older gangster, Jack (Jack Kao), although the depth of the relationship is left purposely ambiguous. Continue reading

Hsiao-hsien Hou – Nanguo Zaijan, Nanguo AKA Goodbye South, Goodbye (1996)


After spending much of the decade making films about Taiwan’s complex and troubled history, Hou Hsiao Hsien turns his attention to its money-obsessed present with this gangster drama. Tattooed mobster, Kao (Jack Kao), and his quick-tempered, aptly named protégé, Flathead (Lim Giong), along with their girlfriends, Ying (Hsu Kuei-ying) and Pretzel (Annie Shizuka Inoh), are desperately trying to make it big. Their master plan is open a disco in Shanghai, but that scheme seems less and less likely with each call they get from their cell phone. Corrupt mainland potentates want a king’s ransom in kickbacks while Pretzel racked up a king’s ransom of debt herself at the mahjong table, prompting her to make a half-hearted suicide attempt. To make ends meet, these would-be entrepreneurs make a stab at swindling the government over swine — selling sows when they are supposed to be the more valuable studs. They wine and dine the farmers in rural backwater Chiayi only to get cut out of the deal and kidnapped by the corrupt police. (All Movie) Continue reading

Hsiao-hsien Hou – Beiqing chengshi aka City Of Sadness (1989)


Seen through the prism of the Lin family, this complex family drama from Taiwanese master Hou Hsiao Hsien details a brief but crucial moment in Taiwanese history between 1945, when 50 years of Japanese colonial rule came to an end, and 1949, when Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist Kuomintang forces established a government-in-exile after the Communist army captured mainland China. Continue reading

Hsiao-hsien Hou – Zui hao de shi guang aka Three times (2005)


Time out review
In 2000, a North American poll of critics and curators named Hou Hsiao-Hsien and Abbas Kiarostami as the most important filmmakers of the ’90s, echoing acclaim that had greeted a tour of the Taiwanese director’s work. Here, his standing’s very different: he remains largely unknown.

Unlike 2004’s ‘Café Lumière’ – the first of his films released here in over a decade – this triptych film should help to change that, since the styles and concerns of each story reflect phases in Hou’s career so far. ‘A Time for Love’ is clearly autobiographical: set in 1966, it sees a young guy fall for a girl employed at a pool hall, but military service keeps him away so long, she’s moved to another job by the time he returns. The second story, ‘A Time for Freedom’, is set in 1911 and resembles a silent movie; it depicts the relationship between a Chinese activist and a courtesan. Finally, ‘A Time for Youth’, set now, concerns the desultory coming together of a photographer and a bisexual rock star. Continue reading