Hou Hsiao-hsien

BFI Modern Classics: A City of Sadness by Bérénice Reynaud

In the BFI Modern Classics publication, A City of Sadness, Bérénice Reynaud provides a comprehensive, articulate, and insightful critical analysis of Hou Hsiao-hsien’s seminal and artistically groundbreaking film on the once-taboo subject of the ‘hidden’ history of Taiwan, providing a compelling examination of the film through the intrinsic social context of a culturally broader Chinese… read more »

The Flight of the Red Balloon, 2007

During an early conversation in Hou Hsiao-hsien’s The Flight of the Red Balloon, Suzanne (Juliette Binoche), having only recently met her young son, Simon’s (Simon Iteanu) new minder, Song (Fang Song), a student from Beijing who moved to Paris to study film, expresses her gratitude for lending a copy of a short film that she… read more »

Three Times, 2005

After two films that admittedly left me uncertain over the direction of Hou Hsiao Hsien’s cinema, it was particularly satisfying to see Hou incorporate his earlier (and specifically, more overtly political) films with his recent expositions into more distilled and highly elliptical mood pieces. Evoking Chantal Akerman’s Toute une nuit in its essential distillation of… read more »

Café Lumière, 2004

Hou’s film continues in a similar vein of hermetic environment and translucently slight narrative that have come to define his later, apolitical (and largely transitional) works (beginning with The Flowers of Shanghai). Opening with the reassuringly familiar sight of the Mount Fuji Shochiku logo that can be seen at the beginning of many of Yasujiro… read more »

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 »