Hou has described this as the favourite amongst his films. Richard and José discuss why this might be so: the compositions; the long takes that allow for action vertically, horizontally, and on different planes of the image. The juxtaposition between the rowdy teenage delinquency we see with the classical musical. The easy ellipsis into memory. The evident influence of Italian neo-realism, particularly Visconti’s Rocco and His Brothers, which is explicitly referenced and Fellini’s I Vitelloni, which has a similar set-up. We discuss the falling into place of a particular style that would come to be associated with the director and why we think the film ends up being so beautiful and moving.
The podcast can also be listened to on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/show/2zWZ7Egdy6xPCwHPHlOOaT
I’ve enclosed seven clips which I hope illustrate his style. The camera placed inside to allow for framings within framings, to bring the outside in, the lingering between foreground and background.
The scene where they go see a porno and end up watching Rocco and His Brothers:
The incredible composition of this long take that begins with the camera backtracking, then panning on the man and the boy, then following them u,. The action takes place mid-frame, the fight goes off space only to return. Hou is not afraid to let the frame wait as policemen go in one direction, motorists on the other, and the gang of boys runs towards the camera. It’s brilliant. And typical of this film.
The iconic scene with the boys teasing the girl, the beginning full frame, the re-framing from the inside, the young girl’s acid commentary on it, and then the elegiac long-shot that follows.
The beautiful shot of the first visit to the house, notice the action, the re-framings through windows and corridors. The way it rhymes with all of the scenes in the house.
Note again, the reframing through balconies and windows, the use of corridors, the way these techniques rhyme and when.
Verité CinemaScope below:
José made a trailer for the podcast:
…and Richard has provided the following links:
this is the interview where Hou talks about the use of “Rocco and his Brothers” https://lwlies.com/interviews/hou-hsiao-hsien-the-assassin/
A good article which puts it in the context of the first three films – https://seattlescreenscene.com/2015/03/20/the-boys-from-fengkuei-hou-hsiao-hsien-1983/
and another good review: https://www.sensesofcinema.com/2003/cteq/boys_from_fengkuei/
Transcript of the BFI interview with Tony Rayns, he talks about the genesis of the film https://www.thelondontree.com/interviews/hou-hsiao-hsien-a-rare-conversation-at-the-bfi-london/
An interesting article on the early films that were on Mubi. http://www.davidbordwell.net/blog/2016/06/06/hou-hsiao-hsien-film-culture-finally-comes-through/
Jose’s suggestions for further reading:
David Scott Diffrient’s, ‘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.
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.
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.
Also the original Variety review may be found here: review