Taiwanese Cinema

The Flowers of Shanghai, 1998

The delicate, exquisitely constructed interiors of the late nineteenth century Shanghai brothels – the flower houses – create a serene, idyllic escape for its venerated patrons. Here, in the euphemistic propriety of privileged society, madams, called ‘aunts’, arrange sexual liaisons for their flower girls through appointed bookings. The Flowers of Shanghai opens to a shot… read more »

Goodbye South Goodbye, 1996

Goodbye South Goodbye opens to the image of a dour and impassive entrepreneur and marginal gangster named Gao (Jack Gao), his volatile and image-conscious associate, Flathead (Giong Lim), and a lackadaisical, drug addicted occasional prostitute named Pretzel (Annie Shizuka Inoh) riding on a passenger train to an unspecified destination. Gao receives a telephone call, but… read more »

Good Men, Good Women, 1995

Good Men, Good Women opens with the enigmatic words, “When yesterday’s sadness is about to die. When tomorrow’s good cheer is marching towards us. Then people say, don’t cry. So why don’t we sing.” A static, monochromatic shot then focuses on a group of travelers laden with baggage, singing as they traverse the rural countryside… read more »

A Cty of Sadness, 1989

A City of Sadness 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 eldest brother, Wen-Heung (Chen Sown-yung), a robust man with crude manners, returns from the war… read more »

Dust in the Wind, 1986

The sublime opening sequence of Dust in the Wind follows a nearly imperceptible diffused white speck – perhaps the referential “dust” of the film’s evocative title – as it momentarily shifts location near the center of the frame then continues on its inexorable course, gradually converging to reveal a light at the end of a… read more »

The Time to Live and the Time to Die, 1985

The Time to Live and the Time to Die is prefaced by the gentle, soft-spoken voice of an off-camera narrator (presumably filmmaker Hou Hsiao Hsien) as he recounts the story of his family’s postwar migration from Mei County in the Kwangtung Province of mainland China in pursuit of career opportunities and the prospect of a… read more »

The Boys from Fengkuei, 1983

The Boys from Fengkuei opens to a static shot of a near desolate thoroughfare in the bucolic, fishing village of Fengkuei in the Penghu islands, as a slow moving bus momentarily stops to open its doors off-camera – seemingly to accommodate or disembark some unseen passenger – before continuing on its unhurried journey along the… read more »

The Sandwich Man: The Son’s Big Doll, 1983

In 1962, at an anonymous Taiwanese village, a somber, lackadaisical man curiously dressed as a clown and laden with advertising billboards promenades through an array of indistinguishable city streets on a sweltering summer day, trying to attract the attention of the occasional passerby with the constant beating of a toy ceremonial drum before momentarily wandering… read more »

The Wayward Cloud, 2005

In an early episode in The Wayward Cloud, Shiang-chyi (Chen Shiang-chyi) spends an aimless afternoon watching television news reports on the ongoing drought and the coincidentally timed falling market price of watermelons, leading the anchorman to jokingly remark that drinking watermelon juice has become more economical than drinking water. The theme of essential substitution proves… read more »

What Time Is It There?, 2001

What Time Is It There? opens to a long, unbroken static shot of a middle-aged man (Tien Miao) preparing the kitchen table for a meal, then calling for his son, Hsiao Kang (Lee Kang-sheng) to no avail, then biding time waiting for his family to sit down for dinner by smoking a cigarette, before walking… read more »