Hsiao-hsien Hou

Hsiao-Hsien Hou – Feng er ti ta cai AKA Play While you Play AKA Cheerful Wind (1981)

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The pop-star leads from Hou’s first feature, Cute Girl, are reunited in the director’s follow-up, a brisk work of bubble-gum romance that begins to experiment with the rules of the genre. This time, Taiwanese singing sensation Feng Fei-fei plays Hsing-hui, a trendy photographer visiting a seaside village in Penghu with her successful boss/fiancé. When she happens upon a flute-playing medic blinded in an ambulance crash (Kenny Bee), sparks fly, songs are sung, and she’s left with the tough decision of who to say “I do” to. Despite the eye-rolling premise, Hou infuses the film with enough formal ingenuity (long takes, telephoto lenses, on-location shooting) that a case can be made for its auteurial significance. Read More »

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

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An assassin accepts a dangerous mission to kill a political leader in seventh-century China.

J. Hoberman wrote:
“The Assassin” is extraordinarily beautiful. The film’s editing and narrative construction are, however, no less remarkable. For all its exquisitely furnished interiors and fantastic landscapes, “The Assassin” is far too eccentric to ever seem picturesque. Nor does it unfold like a typical wuxia. Mayhem is abrupt, brief and fragmentary — predicated on suave jump-cuts and largely devoid of special effects. Read More »

Hsiao-hsien Hou – Flowers of Shanghai AKA Hai shang hua (1998)

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SYNOPSIS
Shanghai, the 1880s, four elegant brothels (flower houses): each has an auntie (the madam), a courtesan in her prime, older servants, and maturing girls in training. The men gather around tables of food, playing drinking games. An opium pipe is at hand. The women live within dark-paneled walls. The atmosphere is stifling, as if Chekov was in China. The melancholy Wang is Crimson’s patron; will he leave her for the younger Jasmin? Emerald schemes to buy her freedom, aided by Luo, a patron. Pearl, an aging flower, schools the willful Jade, who thinks she has a marriage agreement with young master Zhu. Is she dreaming? Women fade, or connive, or despair. Read More »

Hsiao-Hsien Hou – Beiqíng chéngshì AKA A City of Sadness (1989)

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Quote:
A City Of Sadness opens with a credit sequence-shot of total darkness as the solemn voice of Emperor Hirohito is heard over a radio broadcast announcing the unconditional surrender of Japan on August 15, 1945. The setting is then faintly illuminated by the warm glow of candles to reveal an anxious Taiwanese household that is preparing for the imminent birth of a child in the midst of a power failure. As the electricity is restored, the audible agony of the expectant mother gives way to the sound of a crying infant. The apparent metaphor is then reinforced in the subsequent intertitles that reveal that the concubine of Lin Wen-heung (Chen Sown-yung) had given birth to a son whom they name Kang-ming, meaning ‘light.’ However, as the film chronicles the lives of the Lin family during the turbulent four years between the Japanese withdrawal from Taiwan after 51 years of occupation in 1945, to the secession of Taiwan from mainland China in 1949, the hopeful and optimistic tone of the film’s introductory sequence seemingly proves untenable. Read More »

Hsiao-Hsien Hou – Ni luo he nu er AKA Daughter of the Nile (1987)

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Synopsis:
The eldest daughter of a broken and troubled family works to keep the family together and look after her younger siblings, who are slipping into a life of crime. Read More »

Hsiao-Hsien Hou – Zui hao de shi guang AKA Three Times (2005)

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Synopsis:
Three stories about a man and a woman, all three using the same actors. Three years: 1966, 1911, 2005. Three varieties of love: unfulfilled, mercenary, meaningless. Read More »

Hsiao-Hsien Hou – Dong dong de jiàqi AKA A Summer at Grandpa’s (1984)

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Synopsis wrote:
A young boy and his sister spend a summer at their grandparents’ house in the country while their mother recuperates from an illness. They while away the hours climbing trees, swimming in a stream, searching for missing cattle, and coming to uneasy grips with the enigmatic and sometimes threatening realities of adult life. Read More »