Eavesdropping at the Movies: 299 – Cruella

Listen on the players above, Apple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts, or Spotify.

Disney’s latest update of its back catalogue sees Emma Stone bring punk rock to Sixties London in Cruella, a beautiful, stylish, but clunky affair. Like Maleficent before it, Cruella offers an origin story to a key Disney villain: Estella, as she’s named when we meet her, takes a circuitous route to her destiny as a star fashion designer, grifting with friends to make ends meet, and waging war on the leading fashionista of the day, Baroness von Hellman – played by a fabulously wicked Emma Thompson. Oh, and there are some Dalmatians involved.

We discuss the quality and intentions of Cruella’s characterisation and Stone’s performance, the conspicuously expensive soundtrack, the use of CGI animals, whether the film is as queer as some of the hype has suggested, the role of men and masculinity, and why it is that fashion movies are one of very few areas in cinema where women get to play fun villains like the Baroness. Cruella is an imperfect film, less than the sum of its parts – but at their best, those parts are worth it for their own sake.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

 

Hou Hsiao-hsien 18: Context 9 – Flowers of Taipei: Taiwan New Cinema (Chinlin Hsieh, 2014)

A discussion of FLOWERS OF TAIPEI, a documentary on Taiwan New Cinema. José saw it twice; the first time finding it interesting but almost instantly forgettable; the second time it incensed him, seeming an attempt to get a production to pay for a director’s networking opportunities rather than a work that actually illuminates what Taiwan New Cinema might be; its history, contexts, development. We do get to see it’s impact on major names from East Asia. Richard is as always the voice of reason. The podcast can be listened to below:

The podcast can also be listened to on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/show/2zWZ7Egdy6xPCwHPHlOOaT

and on itunes here: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/first-impressions-thinking-aloud-about-film/id1548559546

The Jackie Chan referred to can be seen below:

Images constituting a list of people interviewed for the film, in chronological order, can be seen below:

An image that interested me:

An image that made no sense in the film (who are these people and why are we being shown them?).

 

José

 

Hou Hsiao-hsien 17: Contexts 8 – The Rice Dumpling Vendors (Hsin Chi, 1969)

A discussion of Hsin Chi’s THE RICE DUMPLING VENDORS (1969), a rare male melodrama. The protagonist kicks his wife out of the house for perceived infidelity; as soon as he does the whole family falls apart and is plunged in a spiral of poverty, the father at one point abandoning his baby even as his two minor children take on jobs in order to buy milk. The film documents a society on the cusp of modernity and suffering the effects of the social and economic effects produced by it. Stylistically, the film is highly skilled and gorgeous to look at. Character’s thoughts are offered in voice-over or through song. There is a mix of genres: noir/action/family-melodrama/documentary. It’s a cinephile’s film, with references to PSYCHO (1960) and other films. The music borrows from CINDERELLA (1950) as well as then current pop-hits as Sinatra’s version of ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’. We also discuss the extent to which this film is an influence on Hou Hsiao-hsien’s THE SANDWICH MAN (1983). The more Hsin Chi films we see, the more we like and value them.

If you haven’t yet seen the film, this trailer will hopefully entice you to:

We were delighted to see Su Chu (The People’s Grandmother), Chin Tu (Veteran Thespian), and especially Chin Mei (Tragic Goddess).

The podcast may be listened below:

The podcast can also be listened to on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/show/2zWZ7Egdy6xPCwHPHlOOaT

and on itunes here: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/first-impressions-thinking-aloud-about-film/id1548559546

Paternal Melodrama:

Interesting choices regarding camera placement:

Imaginative Compositions:

Expressive imagery, beautifully lit:

 

Frames within frames:

Similarities to Hou Hsiao-hsien:

Some of you might also be interested in the following clips:

First song and aftermath:

Editing:

Psycho, editing, music:

 

Moral lessons through ending pop song:

 

Click to access The-Rice-Dumpling-Vendors.pdf

José Arroyo

 

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 298 – Witness for the Prosecution

Billy Wilder directs this adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution, a courtroom drama concerning a man on trial for the murder of an old woman – did he do it? What’s up with his wife? Will his lawyer’s nurse catch him smoking? As with Christie’s stageplay, The Mousetrap, upon the film’s conclusion, the audience is kindly asked to refrain from revealing its twists and revelations, but we at Eavesdropping at the Movies respect no such requests. Spoilers within.

Charles Laughton is pleasingly hammy, Marlene Dietrich composed, and Tyrone Power a loud, sweaty, stressed out mess – and somehow mostly in the background, despite his central role as the accused murderer. We discuss their performances and characters, the pleasures and methods of Agatha Christie’s mysteries, and Wilder’s direction, which hopes, in that classic Hollywood style, to render technique invisible. Witness for the Prosecution is an engrossing mystery filled with interesting bits of business that enrich its characters, and a classic.

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

 

Hou Hsiao-hsien 16: Contexts 7 – Dangerous Youth (Hsin Chi, 1969)

Continuing with our discussion of Hsin Chi films generously made available in wonderful versions by the Taiwan Film and Audiovisual Institute. This time the focus is on DANGEROUS YOUTH. We offer a bit of background on Hsin Chi; discuss how the film is similar to Nagisa Oshima’s CRUEL STORY OF YOUTH, Godard’s BREATHLESS, BEAT GIRL, and all the motorcycle gang Roger Corman films of the mid-sixties. The film has the thematics and energy of pre-code sex melodramas but surrounded by a rock-pop soundtrack stylised and transformed by foregrounding the sax. DANGEROUS YOUTH is visually inventive, with fascinating compositions, interesting intimations of nudity through shadows, compositions that make the most of the architecture to suggest interior states and external perspectives. The story of a young girl groomed into prostitution for money by the pimp she loves and the richer woman who is pulling his strings, is given sexy, noirish form and fascinating gender politics. Does anyone believe the end?

The podcast can also be listened to on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/show/2zWZ7Egdy6xPCwHPHlOOaT

and on itunes here: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/first-impressions-thinking-aloud-about-film/id1548559546

Those of you interested in the trailer (always fascinating to see what a trailer promises a film to be versus what it ends up being):

The following scenes are referred to in the podcast:

Opening Scene:

60s Brit Pop

Motorcycle and Stairwell:

Attempted Rape 1:

Third Motorcycle Ride:

Modernity in Taiwan:

Attempted Rape Two:

Sex in and out of focus:

Predatory Males:

Gender Trouble:

Unconvincing Ending:

King’s College Programme Notes for Film:

Click to access Dangerous-Youth.pdf

Richard has also provided this very interesting link on Hsin Chi: 

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 297 – Spiral

Listen to our podcast on Jigsaw here.

Cinema is back! And to celebrate, we see the new spin-off of the Saw series, Spiral, which… is not a good film. But it gives us much to think on, especially the surprisingly big names of its cast, which includes Chris Rock, Samuel L. Jackson, and Max Minghella. Slasher series don’t traditionally accommodate stars, but, beyond the fact that they’re typically too expensive, Spiral offers a warning against their presence: the screentime they require pulls too much attention away from the thrills, the reason we’re really there. The deaths we’re accustomed to enjoying in Saw films just aren’t given to us in sufficient excess or quantity in Spiral; Chris Rock’s protagonist, a detective hunting a Jigsaw copycat, dominates the story. As if catching the murderer is more exciting than watching him work. Honestly.

Despite our disappointment in the film, we enjoy our return to the cinema after nine months away, José finding a new appreciation for the meditative quality of submitting himself to a movie he can’t pause in a darkened room, after a year of experiencing a fractured, distracted mental state watching streaming media. Mike likes the bigness of the screen, and that’s as far as his introspection takes him. In an increasingly vaccinated Britain, this return to the cinema is more optimistic than the shaky and short-lived reopening of last summer, and feels like it stands a good chance of lasting. And a damn good thing, too. We’ve missed it.

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Hou Hsiao-hsien 15: Contexts 6 – Foolish Bride Naive Bridegroom (Hsin Chi, 1967)

We continue our discussion of the films kindly made available in wonderful versions by the Taiwan Film and Audiovisual Institute. This time we discuss the second Hsin Chi film on view, FOOLISH BRIDE, NAIVE BRIDEGROOM, a wonderfully inventive screwball comedy displaying a wide array of cinematic devices for humorous effect (stop-motion, music, fluid camera), anchoring it in solid structure, set on the cusp of modernity, and wittily putting all the major decisions in the hands of the female protagonists. Great fun

 

The podcast can also be listened to on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/show/2zWZ7Egdy6xPCwHPHlOOaT

and on itunes here: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/first-impressions-thinking-aloud-about-film/id1548559546

Richard has recommended the TFAI trailer for it which gives a good taste of what the film is like, and also the captions perhaps indicate the elements which would surprise Taiwanese viewers

Some scenes referred to in the discussion may be seen below:

Bandages:

Camera move onto kiss:

Adaptation of pop songs – Besame Mucho:

Park Scene:

Song Interlude

 

Wedding/ documentary:

Some of you might also find this commentary from King’s College interesting and useful:

Click to access Foolish-Bride.pdf

 

José Arroyo

Hou Hsiao-hsien 14: Contexts 5 – The Bride Who Returned From Hell (Hsin Chi, 1965)

In this new podcast we discuss The Bride Who Returned From Hell, from a cycle of Hsin Chi films the Taiwan Film and Audiovisual Institute is currently providing free on You Tube and in excellent restorations. The film is based on Victoria Holt’s Mistress of Mellin (1960). We discuss its debt to Rebecca, Strangers on a Train, The Innocents, the Bond films, melodrama and the Gothic. We talk about its formal inventiveness in its use of a rotating camera and split screen. We also explore how its interspersed with musical numbers that often take place amongst a recognisable landscape. It’s a Taiwanese film where one can’t help but note its transnational dimension. It’s a film we both liked and recommend.

The podcast can also be listened to on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/show/2zWZ7Egdy6xPCwHPHlOOaT

and on itunes here: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/first-impressions-thinking-aloud-about-film/id1548559546

Some images we refer to include:

The use of widescreen:

The centrality of the house (like Manderley)

Listeners might also find the following clips and interesting and useful:

This is the first song that establishes the centrality of the child and of the house (note the length of the last shot)

The experiment with the rotating camera:

Melodrama through use of music and acting:

American jazz (Gershwin?) as setting for love and murder:

Ghosts:

Song Interlude With Landscape:

Happy Family-to-be in Typical Landscape

Flashback:

Bond Music:

Musical finale in landscape

 

Richard has also provided the following links, which might be of interest:

-interesting overview of Hsin Chi’s career: https://taiyupian.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Xin-Qi.pdf

-Richard notes that the director’s name is sometimes anglicised as Xin Qi rather than Hsin Chi, I found more info by searching for Xin Qi.

-Article on “Bride …” which has the info on the producer’s daughter and the road trip to scout locations https://taiyupian.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/The-Bride-Who-Has-Returned-from-Hell.pdf

José Arroyo

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 296 – And Then There Were None (1945)

We explore René Clair’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s novel of – in the US – the same name, And Then There Were None. In terms of quality, it’s nothing to write home about, sadly, but is interesting nonetheless.

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Hou Hsiao Hsien 13: Contexts 4 – May 13, Day of Sorrows, Lin-Tuan Chiu (1965)

We once more thank the Taiwan Film and Audio-Visual Institute for the opportunity to see these marvellous copies of Lin Tuan-Chiu films. In the podcast we discuss the combination of genres in the film — melodrama, court-room drama, documentary, murder-mystery, musical. We discuss the acting in relation to revue theatre. We wonder if a scene from Hou’s Cute Girl finds its inspiration here….and much more.

The podcast can also be listened to on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/show/2zWZ7Egdy6xPCwHPHlOOaT

and on itunes here: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/first-impressions-thinking-aloud-about-film/id1548559546

We refer to some images concretely: The Newspaper Headlines

The allusion to politics:

The possible inspiration for a similar moment in Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Cute Girl

The framings and compositions:

The countryside:

Listeners might also be interested in the following illustrative clips:

The melodramatic framings of the opening scene

revue acting:

Musical number – Love and threat:

Documentary Sequence:

The reveal:

Court-room flash-back:

Taiwanese Widescreen Process:

Other telling images (or sub-titles) from the film:

The Taiwan Film & Audio-visual Institute’s You Tube page may be found here:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCv9cNssVud_2AtBVzykUieg

and the next films its made available for the next few days are:

The Bride Who Has Returned From Hell, 1965

Foolish Bride, Naive Bridegroom (1967)

and

Dangerous Youth (1969)

all by Hsin Chi, so that’s what we will be exploring in the next few podcasts.

Richard has also provided the following links, adding, ‘

nothing particular to add to these but interesting reviews’: https://www.easternkicks.com/reviews/may-13th-night-of-sorrow

 

José Arroyo

Hou Hsiao-hsien 12: Contexts 3 – Six Suspects

We extend our thanks once more to the Taiwan Film & Audio-visual Institute for making these three Lin Tuan-Chiu films available. In this podcast we discuss Six Suspects, a 1965 mystery/noir that was never released. We discuss its peculiar flashback structure, the beauty of the imagery and composition in contrast to the other somewhat clunky aspects of narration, what the film tells us about the culture, its possible relation to Ozu in terms of compositions and to mid 60s Japanese Crime Drama in relation to look and style. A somewhat unsatisfying film that we nonetheless encourage people to see.

 

The podcast can also be listened to on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/show/2zWZ7Egdy6xPCwHPHlOOaT

and on itunes here: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/first-impressions-thinking-aloud-about-film/id1548559546

You may want to see the trailer for the film below, which gives a good flavour of what the film’s like:

 

We refer to the following images in the podcast:

Shadows

Filmed from Outsisde:

Ways of breaking up the frame:

I also enclose the following clips as illustrations of:

Bad Acting and First Transition

On Location Shooting

Railway Settings

Party Girls

The Following Images may also be of interest:

The Taiwan Film & Audio-visual Institute’s You Tube page may be found here:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCv9cNssVud_2AtBVzykUieg

and the next films its made available for the next few days are:

The Bride Who Has Returned From Hell, 1965

Foolish Bride, Naive Bridegroom (1967)

and

Dangerous Youth (1969)

all by Hsin Chi, so that’s what we will be exploring in the next few podcasts.

José Arroyo

A brief note on The Big Easy (Jim McBride, 1986)

Are Dennis Quaid and Ellen Barkin the sexiest couple in American cinema of the 1980s? Hadn’t seen The Big Easy since it came out and it’s even better than I remembered, even taking into account the low quality of the version available on Amazon Prime. I don’t have time to review the film properly so this is more a listing of thoughts and a file of elements that I might return to at some point and that some of you might find useful. Girlfriends have told me how this is a ‘wallow’ film for them, many of them having seen it more than twenty times, and I think the easy heterosexuality, the sexyness (which felt transgressive when I first saw it), the romanticism, and the playing of the leads has something to do with it.

It’s hard to remember what an enormous impact Dennis Quaid made in this film. But here is Libby Wexman-Glaner to remind you:

I used to follow Libby’s column avidly in Premiere. There was no one who made me laugh so much and so hard about movies. I didn’t know Libby was really a pseudonym for Paul Rudnick, a writer who worked on the screenplays for The Addams Family(1991),, Sister Act (1992), The First Wives Club (1996), and other comedies with a camp bent. He had a big hit off-Broadway with Jeffrey (1993), described as ‘the first comedy about AIDS’. My friend Ben Baglio tells me that reading about The Big Easy, ‘I see that Charles Ludlum has a small role. And that got me to remembering his Ridiculous Theatrical Company in Greenwich Village which he ran with his partner Everett Quinton. I saw them in The Mystery of Irma Vep, which Ludlum wrote. Ludlum succumbed to AIDS shortly after I left New York. Pleased to see Quinton is alive and well. God, it really was a terrible time. This terrible time is not evident in The Big Easy. It’s noir about many things but not about love.

Recently I’ve been reading  Tracy Tynan’s Wear and Tear: The Threads of My Life. Aside from being the daughter of Elaine Dundy and the great Kenneth Tynan, she was an accomplished costume designer, married to Jim McBride, the film’s director, and she designed or put together the clothes for The Big Easy. This is what she has to say about the wedding dress at the end:

A great film, with a great score of zydeca and Bayou music — hearing Aaron Neville in this film singing ‘Tell It Like It Is’ still gives me chills — some of the most charismatic performers of 1980s American cinema — one weeps to see how great Ellen Barkin is here and how little and badly American cinema used her subsequently– and one of the greatest sex scenes ever. Also a film whose direction make it add up to even more than the sum of its great parts. A film to revisit.

 

José Arroyo

Hou Hsiao-hsien 11: Contexts 2 – King Hu, Dragon Inn (1967) & A Touch of Zen (1971)

 

In this podcast we discuss the recent MUBI showings of King Hu’s Dragon Inn (967) and A Touch of Zen (1971), its relationship to the Wuxia genre and its influence on films such Crouching Tiger/ Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee, 2000), Hero (Zhang Yimou, 2002) and House of Flying Daggers (Zhang Yimou, 2004,) its later influence on more recent Taiwanese cinema, so obvious in Tsai Ming Liang’s Goodbye, Dragon Inn (2003) and Hou’s own The Assassin (2015). We discuss the beauty of its widescreen images, try to relate it to the work of Sergio Leone in relation to its use of landscape, and ruminate on the filming of action as ‘pure cinema’. We also discuss the distinctiveness of its use of female action heroines, particularly in relation to Western Cinema.

The podcast can also be listened to on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/show/2zWZ7Egdy6xPCwHPHlOOaT

and on itunes here: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/first-impressions-thinking-aloud-about-film/id1548559546

 

Listeners might be interested in the following reviews:

A Touch of Zen

José Arroyo

Hou Hsia-Hsien 10: Contexts A – The Husband’s Secret/ Zhang fu de mi mi (Lin Tuan-qiu, Taiwan, 1960)

 

A treat. Part of a new series of mid-century Taiwanese films made available in wonderful restorations through the Taiwan Film and Audiovisual Institute. We are discussing the film as a context for, as a way of better understanding the cinema of Hou Hsiao-hsien. But we can’t help but discuss other elements that crop up: the career of Lin Tuan-qiu, the uses of melodrama, the extraordinary cinematography by Chen Cheng-fan and equally amazing lighting by Chen Tian-rong; we discuss how the film is a critique of patriarchy whilst also exploiting the visual aspects of women sinning; the films seems both visually sophisticated but also an example of what many will see as crude stereotypical melodrama, and fascinating for that. It’s a plot-laden film, full of twists, and totally engrossing. We discuss the uses of flashbacks and flashbacks within flashbacks; the voice-over elements by a narrator that seems omniscient and can’t quite be placed; we critique the choppiness of the editing whilst praising some of the on-location shooting. We see clear roots in theatre and theatrical forms of acting and delight in the uses of on-location shooting. A weird and fascinating combination of cine-literate sophistication with a kind of crudity of acting and mode which we highly recommend not only to those interested in Taiwanese Cinema but also those interested in melodrama. The podcast can be listened below:

The podcast can also be listened to on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/show/2zWZ7Egdy6xPCwHPHlOOaT

and on itunes here: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/first-impressions-thinking-aloud-about-film/id1548559546

 

Melodramatic Mode: I have captured images which lovers of melodrama will see as archetypal to the genre in terms of image, situation, dialogue, plot. It’s like a primer and worth looking through for the sub-titles alone:

 

We have also included the following clips that are referred to in the podcast:

Rape and Misfortune:

Pimping and Memory:

Memory of Bliss:

Melodramatic Revelations 1:

Melodramatic Revelations2:

Arrangements for the baby:

Baby 2 -Epilogue

In addition to the above:

Richard has found this wonderful link by By Ming-yeh & T. Rawnsley on ‘An Introduction to a Taiyupian Filmmaker, Lin Tuanqiu’: Lin-Tuanqiu-article

-This is the review he mentions in the podcast. 

-This one discusses the cinematography and also the Japanese and Western influences on the film

-Detailed article on Lin Tuan Qiu https://taiyupian.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Lin-Tuanqiu-article.pdf

-The overview Richard  mentions from the Taiwan Film Festival

…and we did find the names of the cinematographer and lighting designer (in the credits, duh!).

 

José Arroyo

My Life With Cleopatra: The Making of a Hollywood Classic by Walter Wanger and Joe Hyams

 

 

An Oxfam find. I think I first read this forty years ago or so. This editions was re-published to coincide with the 50th anniversary blu-ray release in 2013. It’s a book that’s useful for many reasons, the first being that it’s a producer’s account so one’s allowed in from the very first stages of planning, casting decisions (Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Burt Lancaster, Joan Collins, Noel Coward — all were discussed seriously), the hiring of key personnel and the production planning. We get to see why it was decided to film in the UK (the Edy plan) and Egypt (free use of military as extras) and why the eventual move to Rome and Cinecittà. We eventually understand why Rouben Mamoulian was hired and why he was eventually replaced by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. There are lots of pages about getting Sidney Guilaroff to do Taylor’s hair, how the British unions were against this, and the bribes involved to get them to aquiesce. Taylor comes across as supremely sane, intelligent, and helpful. Wanger, married to Joan Bennet for many years, and a distinguished independent producer since the thirties knew how to deal with stars, what to expect, how to make things comfortable. It’s the other producers who come off badly here, power-hungry, indecisive, incompetent. In a line that’s become a commonplace recently, ‘I don’t care what the facts and figures say, just make it happen’. Well something did happen: the most expensive film ever to that time. We get a complete budget breakdown of the final version, and we’re also told — that contrary to its legend — the film went into profit in 1966 with its $5 million dollar sale to ABC. According to Kenneth Turan in the afterword, ‘Cleopatra became one of the highest grossing films of 1963, ended up playing in New York for sixty three weeks, and went into profit in 1966′ (p.224) .

Turan writes, ‘On one level the limited success Cleopatra achieved in the face of ungodly obstacles can be seen as a triumph of the system, the victory of industry worker bees over snarky gossipistas. But from another point of view the lesson of this film fifty years down the road is how little remembered that triumph is and the recognition of how often perception becomes reality in this town ‘(224-225).

An entertaining and useful read.

José Arroyo

Wear and Tear: The Threads of My Life by Tracy Tynan

 

A lovely book about growing up as the daughter of famous writers (Kenneth Tynan and Elaine Dundy). Lots of celebrity friends crop up amongst the relative neglect. Each chapter is structured around an item of clothing (a Pucci dress, a Muji T-shirt) that acts as a Proustian madeleine to go back to the past, to provide a fulcrum to that particular story, and also ties the threads of the book together. Tracy Tynan would go on to marry director James McBride so the ‘incidents on the fringes of celebrity culture’ – feel to the book continues to the end. It’s well-written, sophisticated in its acceptance of various foibles and entertaining, at least until the end where the yoga retreats and the Starbucks coffee orders got a bit much for me. Tynan would go on to costume several famous films (Breathless, Choose Me) and it is these aspects that I found most interesting and useful. She recounts what a costume designer does beyond designing for the stars and, in enumerating the various challenges she faced, she offers a clear breakdown of the various tasks involved. I recommend.

José Arroyo

Hou Hsiao-hsien 9: Daughter of the Nile (1987)

 

We discuss Daughter of the Nile as a transitional film for Hou, the relatively few  locations (the house, KFC, the nightclub, the beach etc) in which the film is set, the now typical Hou way of filming from repeating fixed camera positions with little or no movement; the way the protagonist remains relatively unknowable, the fractured family on the edges of criminality across generations, the lack of judgment on that, the continued use of fart jokes, the context in which the film was made (end of Martial law, ongoing relationship with American consumer culture etc). A film José didn’t quite like as much as Richard but which nonetheless rewarded a second viewing. The podcast may be listened to below:

The podcast can also be listened to on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/show/2zWZ7Egdy6xPCwHPHlOOaT

and on itunes here: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/first-impressions-thinking-aloud-about-film/id1548559546

 

Listeners might be interested in this wonderful introductory lecture to Hou Hsiao-hsien’s cinema by the great Tony Rayns:

Andrew Chan in the November-December 1917 issue of Film Comment calls Daughter of the Nile a ‘ a scabbed wound of a film whose identification with disaffected city youth paved the way for the harsher provocations of Tsai Ming-liang a half-decade later’.

 

The New York Times Review compares the film to OZU, Bresson, Rebel Without a Cause 

In Slant Magazine: ‘Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien’s compositions arrange walls, doors, and windows as frames within a frame, visually trapping characters under the weight of their relationships and responsibilities. …

‘Sandwiched as it is between the two major trilogies in Hou’s canon—the first (A Summer at Grandpa’sA Time to Live and a Time to Die, and Dust in the Wind) focused on the filmmaker’s personal memories, and the second (A City of SadnessThe Puppetmaster and Good Men, Good Women) on Taiwan’s fraught history—Daughter of the Nile is often overlooked. Yet in its elegiac, ambivalent view of neon-streaked city streets and youth floundering in a unfathomably huge cultural transition, it points the way toward Hou’s later films like Goodbye South, Goodbye and Millennium Mambo. The film is also one of Hou’s most accessible works, its depiction of angst-ridden, Westernizing youth fitting well within contemporaneous Taiwanese New Wave cinema while showcasing the director’s formal idiosyncrasy.

In a lovely review for The Monthly Film Bulletin, Tony Rayns writes, ‘In a curious way, Hou’s cinema seems to e edging closer and closer to Bresson. His preference for long, fixed-angle takes in which his characters simply go about their business increasingly succeeds in rhyming exterior gesture with unspoken, interior thoughts. In a word, his cinema is becoming more spiritual’. It can be accessed here: rayns

Richard tells me, ‘info on the KFC Japan Christmas celebration discussed in the podcast…’: https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20161216-why-japan-celebrates-christmas-with-kfc

The New York Times one I talk about: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/24/movies/daughter-of-the-nile-hou-hsiao-hsien-quad-cinema.html

A perceptive review of a cinema screening, from the period when the film was still hard to see http://www.reverseshot.org/symposiums/entry/616/daughter_nile

-Review from Film Comment of the restoration, which draws attention to the fart joke: https://www.filmcomment.com/article/review-daughter-of-the-nile-hou-hsiao-hsien/

-This covers the different reception of the film on original release and rerelease (including quotes from the Vincent Canby New York Times review, and Tony Rayns more recent commments) https://asianmoviepulse.com/2018/09/film-analysis-daughter-of-the-nile-1987-by-hou-hsiao-hsien/

…and with thanks to Richard’s super research skills, the theme tune for the video

—  Josés increasing Scholarly Bibliography on Hou which we will add to after every episode:

 

-Andres, Nigel, ‘A Camera Trained on Eternal Truths, Financial Times,  London: 07 June 2005: 13.

-Assayas, Olivier, Modern Time, Film Comment; Jan/Feb 2008; 44, p. 48

-Combs, Geoffrey, ‘ Dust in the Wind/ Lianlian Feng Chen’, Monthly Film Bulletin, April 1, 1990;57, 675, pg.111.

-Diffrient, David Scott ,’The Sandwich Man: History, episodicity and serial conditioning in a Taiwanese omnibus film’, Asian Cinema, vol 25, no., pp. 71-92,

-Cheshire, Godgrey, ‘Time span: The cinema of Hou Hsio-hsien’, Film Comment; Nov 1993;29, 6, pg. 56.

-Ellickson , Lee and Hou Hsiao-hsien, Preparing to Live in the Present; An interview with Hou Hsiao-hsien, Cineaste, Fall 2002, vol 27, no. 4 (Fall 2002), pp. 13-19

 

-Hastie, Amelie, ‘Watching Carefully: Hou Hsiao-Hsien and His Audience’, Film Quarterly, vol. 69, no. 3 (Spring 2016), pp. 72-78

-Kenigsberg, Ben . ‘Looking for an Introduction to Taiwan’s Greatest Filmmaker? Start Here’. New York Times (Online) , New York: New York Times Company. May 28, 2020.

-Lupke, Christopher (The Sinophone Cinea of Hou Shiao-hsien: Culture, Stuyle, Voice and Motion, amherst: Cambria Press.

-Rayns, Tony, Esprit de corp, Film Comment; Nov. Dec. 2007, 43, 6, p. 14

-Rayns, Tony, ‘Tongnian Wangshi (The Time To Live and The Tine to Die), Monthly Film Bulletin; Jun 1, 1988; 55, 653

-Rayns, Tony, ‘Daughter of the Nile’ Monthly Film Bulletin, April 1, 989, 56, 663.

-Stanbrook, Alan, The Worlds of Hou Hsiao-hsien’, Sight and Sound, Spring 1990; 59, 2, Rayns, Tony, ‘Auteur in the Making’, Sight and Sound; July 2016;26, 9; p. 98

-Sklar, Robert, ‘Hidden History, Modern Hedeonism; The films of Hou Hsia-hsien’,  Cineaste, Fall 2002; 27, 4, pg. 11.

-Udden, James, ‘Taiwanese Popular Cinema and the Strage Apprenticeship of Hou Hsiao-hsien, Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, Spring, 2003, vol. 15, no. Special Issue on Taiwan Film Spring, 2003), pp. 120-145.

-Udden, James, ‘Dust in the Wind: A Definite Hou/ New Cinema  Work’, The Cupola, 08-2014 (This book chapter is available at The Cupola: Scholarship at Gettysburg College: https://cupola.gettysburg.edu/idsfac/21)

-Xia Cai, Chapter 1: Hou Hisao-Hsien Films and Readings, The Ethics of Witness: Dailiness and History in Hou Hsia-hsien’s Films, Springer: Singapore, 2019, pp. 1-3

-Yueh-yu, Yeh. Post Script – Essays in Film and the Humanities; Commerce, Tex, Vol 20, Iss 2-3 (Winter 2000) 61-76.

Y-ip, June, ‘Taiwanese New Cinema’ in The Oxford History of World Cinema, Geoffrey Nowell-Smith ed. New York, United States, Oxford University Press, 1996)

 

-Wen, Tien-Hsiang (trans by GAN Sheuo Hui), ‘Hou Hsiao-Hsien: a standard for evaluating Taiwan’s cinema), Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, vol 9, number 2, 2008.

 

Last Call by Elon Green

A real page-turner, in the ‘true murder’ investigative genre, but so much more than that. It’s told like a detective mystery where a character — usually a lonely middle-aged gay man, often married, — goes into a bar only to be picked up by a younger man who turns out to be a serial killer, then meticulously dismembered and dumped in bin bags. As Elon Green gives a face and a history to each of these quasi-forgotten victims, the full force of homophobia –social, institutional, familial — as well as self-hatred, all comes to the fore. Almost nobody cared as man after man gets killed. As the mystery gets somewhat resolved, the full force of the culture’s homophobia gets revealed. Initially people didn’t care about AIDS because it seemed to affect predominantly gay men. Likewise few cared about these men and these murders — which as far as we know took place at the height of the pandemic; there might have been others subsequently — for the same reason. And this wasn’t a century ago. The last murders date to the nineties and the killer was not arrested until 2001. A riveting book that elicits a mix of sadness and rage.

José Arroyo

Hou Hsiao-hsien 8: Dust in the Wind (1986)

A beautiful film, a continuation of a cycle of autobiographical films (The Boys From Fengkuei, A Summer at Grandpa’s). We continue our discussion of framing, ellipses, cinema, letters, the country and the city, heartbreak and exploitation, and all those other formal and thematic elements that make Hou’s cinema so great. James Udden’s wonderful article (see below) has been very useful in the discussion:

Dust in the Wind: A Definite Hou/ New Cinema  Work’, The Cupola, 08-2014 (This book chapter is available at The Cupola: Scholarship at Gettysburg College: https://cupola.gettysburg.edu/idsfac/21)

 

The podcast can also be listened to on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/show/2zWZ7Egdy6xPCwHPHlOOaT

and on itunes here: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/first-impressions-thinking-aloud-about-film/id1548559546

 

José made a trailer:

 

Richard tells me: found this very good article from mubi’ https://mubi.com/notebook/posts/taiwan-stories-the-new-cinema-of-the-1980s

a good article although I disagree on some things https://seattlescreenscene.com/2015/03/22/dust-in-the-wind-hou-hsiao-hsien-1986/

 

— The beginnings of Josés Scholarly Bibliography on Hou which we will add to after every episode:

 

-Andres, Nigel, ‘A Camera Trained on Eternal Truths, Financial Times,  London: 07 June 2005: 13.

-Assayas, Olivier, Modern Time, Film Comment; Jan/Feb 2008; 44, p. 48

-Combs, Geoffrey, ‘ Dust in the Wind/ Lianlian Feng Chen’, Monthly Film Bulletin, April 1, 1990;57, 675, pg.111.

-Diffrient, David Scott ,’The Sandwich Man: History, episodicity and serial conditioning in a Taiwanese omnibus film’, Asian Cinema, vol 25, no., pp. 71-92,

-Cheshire, Godgrey, ‘Time span: The cinema of Hou Hsio-hsien’, Film Comment; Nov 1993;29, 6, pg. 56.

-Ellickson , Lee and Hou Hsiao-hsien, Preparing to Live in the Present; An interview with Hou Hsiao-hsien, Cineaste, Fall 2002, vol 27, no. 4 (Fall 2002), pp. 13-19

 

-Hastie, Amelie, ‘Watching Carefully: Hou Hsiao-Hsien and His Audience’, Film Quarterly, vol. 69, no. 3 (Spring 2016), pp. 72-78

-Kenigsberg, Ben . ‘Looking for an Introduction to Taiwan’s Greatest Filmmaker? Start Here’. New York Times (Online) , New York: New York Times Company. May 28, 2020.

-Lupke, Christopher (The Sinophone Cinea of Hou Shiao-hsien: Culture, Stuyle, Voice and Motion, amherst: Cambria Press.

-Rayns, Tony, Esprit de corp, Film Comment; Nov. Dec. 2007, 43, 6, p. 14

-Rayns, Tony, ‘Tongnian Wangshi (The Time To Live and The Tine to Die), Monthly Film Bulletin; Jun 1, 1988; 55, 653

-Stanbrook, Alan, The Worlds of Hou Hsiao-hsien’, Sight and Sound, Spring 1990; 59, 2, Rayns, Tony, ‘Auteur in the Making’, Sight and Sound; July 2016;26, 9; p. 98

-Sklar, Robert, ‘Hidden History, Modern Hedeonism; The films of Hou Hsia-hsien’,  Cineaste, Fall 2002; 27, 4, pg. 11.

-Udden, James, ‘Taiwanese Popular Cinema and the Strage Apprenticeship of Hou Hsiao-hsien, Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, Spring, 2003, vol. 15, no. Special Issue on Taiwan Film Spring, 2003), pp. 120-145.

-Udden, James, ‘Dust in the Wind: A Definite Hou/ New Cinema  Work’, The Cupola, 08-2014 (This book chapter is available at The Cupola: Scholarship at Gettysburg College: https://cupola.gettysburg.edu/idsfac/21)

-Xia Cai, Chapter 1: Hou Hisao-Hsien Films and Readings, The Ethics of Witness: Dailiness and History in Hou Hsia-hsien’s Films, Springer: Singapore, 2019, pp. 1-3

-Yueh-yu, Yeh. Post Script – Essays in Film and the Humanities; Commerce, Tex, Vol 20, Iss 2-3 (Winter 2000) 61-76.

Y-ip, June, ‘Taiwanese New Cinema’ in The Oxford History of World Cinema, Geoffrey Nowell-Smith ed. New York, United States, Oxford University Press, 1996)

 

-Wen, Tien-Hsiang (trans by GAN Sheuo Hui), ‘Hou Hsiao-Hsien: a standard for evaluating Taiwan’s cinema), Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, vol 9, number 2, 2008.