最好的时光 | Three Times

Three Times

Three stories of women and men: in 1966, “A Time for Love,” a soldier searches for a young woman he met one afternoon playing pool; “A Time for Freedom,” set in a bordello in 1911, revolves around a singer’s longing to escape her surroundings; in 2005 in Taipei, “A Time for Youth” dramatizes a triangle in which a singer has an affair with a photographer while her partner suffers. In the first two stories, letters are crucial to the outcome; in the third, it’s cell-phone calls, text messages, and a computer file. Over the years between the tales, as sexual intimacy becomes more likely and words more free, communication recedes.

Directed by Hsiao-hsien Hou | Starring : Qi Shu, Chen Chang, Shi-Zheng Chen, Fang Mei, Lawrence Ko | Presented at Cannes Film Festival, Taipei Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, New York Film Festival, London Film Festival, Thessaloniki Film Festival, Rotterdam Film Festival, San Francisco Film Festival, Istanbul Film Festival, Indianapolis Film Festival, Yerevan Film Festival, Helsinki Film Festival

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千禧曼波 | Millennium Mambo

Millenium Mambo

From one of the world’s greatest living directors and critically acclaimed as his finest film, Millennium Mambo is as stylish, hypnotic and mesmerizing as Wong Kar- Wai’s hit film, In the Mood for Live, which it clearly resembles in its evocative portrayal of an intense relationship and in its stylish direction powered by a thumping electric soundtrack. Winner of the Grand Prix Prize at the 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. The youthful Vicky is torn between two men, Hao-Hao and Jack. 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. Some degree of affinity between them begins to take shape: it may lead to a still closer relationship or a permanent friendship. Although Vicky wants to be a free spirit, she is battling demons that cast dark shadows over her somewhat meaningless existence. One of the world’s greatest filmmakers, Hou Hsiao-Hsien has made an innovative and daring film that is nothing short of mesmerising.

Directed by Hsiao-hsien Hou | Starring : Qi Shu, Jack Kao, Doze Niu, Chun-hao Tuan, Pauline Chan | Presented at Cannes Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Vancouver Film Festival, Ghent Film Festival, Chicago Film Festival, Flanders Film Festival, AFI Film Festival, Hawaii Film Festival, Pusan Film Festival, London Film Festival, Bangkok Film Festival

海上花 | Flowers of Shanghai

Flowers of Shanghai

After a long line of films interrogating Taiwan’s past and present, Hou Hsiao-hsien turned to 19th-century China, adapting Han Bangqing’s late Qing novel on the upscale brothels of Shanghai’s foreign concessions. Denied permission to shoot in the city itself, Hou made his film entirely in a studio — befitting the cloistered, microcosmic world of the courtesans and their patrons — and reduced the novel’s sprawling cast to a handful of central characters. Cantonese civil servant Wang has hit a rough patch with long-term companion Crimson and looks to her younger rival Laelia; haughty Emerald (Michelle Reis) connives with Luo to buy out her contract; and up-and-coming Jade resists experienced elder courtesan Pearl, and has a liason with the naive Zhu Shuren. These relationships — governed by strict codes of money and power — are conveyed in appropriately sensual yet rigorous style: carefully choreographed camerawork by Lee Ping-bin, a minimal editing scheme (37 shots, each bracketed by fades), and haunting leitmotifs from composer Hanno Yoshihiro.

Directed by Hsiao-hsien Hou | Starring : Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Carina Lau, Michelle Reis, Hada Michiko, Jack Kao | Presented at Cannes Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Vancouver Film Festival, Chicago Film Festival, Taipei Film Festival, New York Film Festival, Mar del Plata Film Festival, Kerala Film Festival, Auckland Film Festival, Buenos Aires Film Festival, Thessaloniki Film Festival

南国再见,南国 | Goodbye, South, Goodbye

Goodbye South Goodbye

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 , and his quick-tempered, aptly named protégé, Flathead, along with their girlfriends, Ying and Pretzel, 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. This film was dubbed of the ten best films of the 1990s by numerous critics, including Susan Sontag.

Directed by Hsiao-hsien Hou | Starring : Jack Kao, Kuei-Ying Hsu, Giong Lim, Annie Shizuka Inoh, Hsiang Hsi | Presented at Cannes Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Vancouver Film Festival, New York Film Festival, Chicago Film Festival, Rotterdam Film Festival, Singapore Film Festival, San Francisco Film Festival, Thessaloniki Film Festival

好男好女 | Good Men, Good Women

Good Men Good Women

Unknown man bothers actress with a diary stolen from her. Ambitious film about film and life by one of today’s greatest film-makers. The story is set in present-day Taipei. Liang Ching, a young actress, is bothered by an unknown man who calls her up regularly, but doesn’t say anything. He has also stolen her diary and keeps sending her pages from it by fax. Liang Ching is busy rehearsing a role in a film about two anti-Japanese guerrillas in China in the forties. Her approach to the scenes seems increasingly influenced by her personal background, especially by the faxed diary notes. She remembers the time when she worked as a bar-girl, was addicted to drink and drugs and had a short and intense relationship with the gangster Ah Wei. As Liang Ching works through the script of the film, the identification with her film role becomes stronger, but her life is still dominated by underworld figures. Her brother-in-law – whose wife, her sister, suggests Liang Ching is having an affair with him – is involved with the construction of a factory to treat chemical waste in the Taiwanese countryside. Slowly but surely, the boundaries between the film-in-the-film, the underworld and Liang Ching’s memories of Ah Wei disappear.

Directed by Hsiao-hsien Hou | Starring : Annie Shizuka Inoh, Vicky Wei, Jack Kao, Giong Lim, Chen-Nan Tsai | Presented at Cannes Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, New York Film Festival, Chicago Film Festival, Hawaii Film Festival, Stockholm Film Festival, Rotterdam Film Festival, Singapore Film Festival, Changchun Film Festival, Buenos Aires Film Festival, Thessaloniki Film Festival

戏梦人生 | The Puppetmaster

The Puppetmaster

Li Tien Lu is the world’s most famous puppet master. Born in Taïwan on the wake of World War I, he lived through the Japanese occupation, and American bombings of his country. Now eighty-four, reflects on the forces that shaped his life: “My hands breathed life into my puppet figures. I created them and directed the drama of their fates, almost as though I were God himself. But the reality is that, with someone above me pulling the strings, I, too, am a mere puppet…”

Directed by Hsiao-hsien Hou | Starring : Tianlu Li, Giong Lim, Hung Liou, Chen-Nan Tsai, Lai-Yin Yang | Presented at Cannes Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, New York Film Festival, Rotterdam Film Festival, Fribourg Film Festival, Istanbul Film Festival, Buenos Aires Film Festival, Thessaloniki Film Festival

悲情城市 | A City of Sadness

City of Sadness

Hou’s epic film focuses on the complex history of 20th-century Taiwan during the turbulent period in Taiwanese history between the fall of the Japanese Empire in 1945 and the establishment of martial law in 1949. Hou fashioned a national saga out of the events leading to the now infamous “February 28 Incident,” a massacre of thousands of Taiwanese civilians by Nationalist soldiers in 1947. Revolving around the fates of four brothers whose lives embody the major forces at work on the island, A City of Sadness unfolds a complex and engaging narrative contrasting the oldest brother, a bar owner eager to profit from the postwar economic boom and the youngest, a deaf-mute photographer with ties to the leftist resistance to the Kuomintang. Despite its broad canvas, the film remains intimately focused on daily life, with the major historical events taking place primarily offscreen. A City of Sadness remains one of Hou’s most formally inventive films, utilizing text onscreen, voiceover and a variety of languages. Made in the wake of the lifting of martial law on the island, A City of Sadness is both an important act of remembrance and a landmark of world cinema.

Directed by Hsiao-hsien Hou | Starring : Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Jack Kao, Tianlu Li, Sung Young Chen, Shufen Xin | Presented at Venice Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Vancouver Film Festival, New York Film Festival, AFI Film Festival, Berlin Film Festival, San Francisco Film Festival, Hong Kong Film Festival, Buenos Aires Film Festival, Febio Film Festival, Thessaloniki Film Festival