Tag Archives: Hou Hsiao-hsien

Hou Hsiao-hsien 22: Contexts 12 – Our Time, Our Story (Hsiao Chu-chen, 2002)

A discussion of OUR TIME, OUR STORY, a more traditional documentary than FLOWERS OF TAIPEI but all the better for it. A film that offers various kinds of contexts (production, distribution, exhibition, reception),  historicises well, finds extraordinary archival footage, interviews many of the leading people involved in Taiwan’s New Cinema and really enhances our knowledge of the period, the movement, and the films themselves. The film boasts many clips often in a lamentably degraded state but one that really make us appreciate the value of the new restorations . The video 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

The clip Richard refers to may be seen below:

Listeners may also be interested in the screen -grabs below:

 

The film comes as an extra on the Criterion edition of Edward Yang’s A Brighter Summer Day and is worth the price of the blu-ray on its own.

José Arroyo

Hou Hsiao-hsien 21: A City of Sadness (1989)

After all our contextualising, we return to Hou Hsiao-hsien films proper, focussing on the masterpiece that is a City of Sadness. We are able now to discuss not only what the film feels like to watch or what it is about in formal terms but can now add various kinds of contexts: historical, political, social, aesthetic, industrial, and even how our own personal histories find echo in the film and how those echoes add a layer of insight and understanding into the film and perhaps also into ourselves. It makes for a rich but still — as is proper with all great works — initial and tentative discussion.

The podcast above 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 following clips are discussed in the podcast:
Framing of shots and movement within frame

The movement over the mountain at the beginning

Different planes of action

Muteness as metaphor:

photographing the end:

Inter-titles:

 

Perfect camera placement:

 

Hou Hsiao-hsien 20: Contexts 11 – The Terrorizers (Edward Yang, 1986)

We continue with our discussion of Edward Yang films in relation to Hou Hsiao-hsien’s work. We discuss the film in relation to Postmodernism, Existentialism, contingency, nausea, chance. We note that Fredric Jameson wrote on Sartre, Postmodernism, and this film. We discuss, Yang’s characteristic visuals, his distinctive way of filming, narrating, and style of characterisation; a kind of mosaic  sights, sounds, scenes which the viewer is left to piece together. We continue to be entranced.

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

Images referred to in the film:

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf

Characteristically Yang

Images of books and shots through a curtain are characteristic of The Terrorizers. This condenses them both.

José Arroyo

Hou Hsiao-hsien 19: Context 10 (Edward Yang, 1985)

Richard and I discuss our admiration of Edward Yang’s Taipei Story. It’s connection to Hou Hsiao-hsien, who stars and co-wrote the screenplay. It’s a mosaic of a film in which a relationship between two people, childhood sweethearts who care for each other, falls apart and as it does so we get to see stories of a people and of a city in transition in a country situated within two imperial cultures, Japanese and American, with mainland China always hovering on the background. It’s a beautiful film, with really striking, original and beautiful imagery: Yang’s flat face-on camera, uses of screens, reflections, the city always ever present in what is ultimately a chamber piece focussing on a couple and their immediate relations, the couple caught between a longed for past (on his part) and an uncertain future in hers. A truly great film.

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

Images referred to in the film

blue backgrounds

Hou Hsiao-hsien framed between screens

Neon City

Reflected on screens. Also see other images below:

clip of Pepsi imagery:

Yang & Hockney

Richard also recommends this article:

This is a great article although it ignores the Hokkien-language films! This artistic conservatism was partly the result of the Kuomintang government’s thirty-eight-year imposition of martial law, and while the New Taiwan Cinema did not become explicitly political until the late eighties, when the law was lifted, Yang’s and Hou’s early films were among the first to depict Taiwan as a place with a burgeoning sense of its own social and historical integrity, independent of a mainland China that had long considered it a mere repository.

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

 

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: 

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

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

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

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.

 

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.

 

Hou Hsiao-hsien 7: A Time To Live and a Time to Die

 

We continue our discussion of the work of Hou Hsiao-hsien, this time with a focus on The Time to Live and The Time to Die, the second in his cycle of autobiographical films after The Boys from Fenkuei.

In the podcast below, we discuss what is depth in this film and talk about Hou’s consideration of ‘traces ‘in the surfaces of his films, how depth is often inextricable from surface in his work. We note the structuring of this film, a bildungsroman, around a series of deaths. We talk of how often the key narrative points are obscured, and make sense only in the connections the viewers can make subsequently; how Hou often films in fixed positions, so we return to the same scene but across time, and we think about how this might affect all those spaces without faces, the anticipatory space, and the remains after characters have left the scene. We also explore the dual perspective in the film, the filmmaker’s and the protagonist’s, often intersecting, rarely interchangeable. We mention how Hou narrates the beginning of the film and how the drama is filmed in the real places and spaces he grew up in, and the effect of dramatising fictionally, on our speculation of the effects of spaces across time in this narrative….and much more. 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

 

José did a supercut of places without faces in Hou Hsiao-hsien’s A Time to Live and a Time to Die‘(with added atmosphere by Duke Ellington) that is referred to in the podcast and can be seen below:

 

The clip of the conversation between mother and daughter referred to in the podcast can be seen here:

 

José also did a trailer for the film, which may be found here:

 

Richard has provided the following links:

A fascinating review raising many of the same points we do, and many others:

The source of the “17 fixed camera positions” quote – http://thecinemaarchives.com/2019/07/31/a-time-to-live-and-a-time-to-die-1985-hsiao-hsien-hou/

and he adds an extended interview with Hou Hsiao-hsien and Chu T’ien-wen. Time to Live is not mentioned but they talk about how he became a filmmaker and also the birth of the New Taiwanese Cinema:

A PDF of the Hou Interview:

houHsiao-hsin_zhuTianwen_interview

-Another interesting article, with a focus on the shooting style http://www.reverseshot.org/symposiums/entry/601/time_live_and_time_die

-A good overview of the autobiographical and historical context, and the source of the quote about the ending (“The making of the movie is the happy ending the film itself so crushingly lacks, if a happy ending is even possible.”

https://seattlescreenscene.com/2015/03/21/the-time-to-live-the-time-to-die-hou-hsiao-hsien-1985/

The Time to Live and The Time to Die  was one of Derek Malcolm’s 100 greatest films in a series he did in 2000. He talks about how comparatively little known Hou was in the UK at that point, and also was the initial source for the discussion on the title https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2000/aug/03/artsfeatures1

 

and here’s the Air France commercial Richard mentions https://vimeo.com/24194114

More Reviews (from Wiki):

  1.  “Review: ‘Tongnian WangshiVariety. December 31, 1984. Retrieved February 23, 2015.
  2. ^ Malcolm, Derek. “Hou Hsiao-hsien: The Time to Live and the Time to Die”The Guardian. Retrieved February 23, 2015.
  3. ^ Rosenbaum, Jonathan (2013). “A Time to Live and a Time to Die”Chicago Reader. Retrieved February 23, 2015.
  4. ^ Andrew, Geoff. “The Time to Live and the Time to Die”Time Out London. Retrieved February 23, 2015.

— 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

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.

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.

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.

Yip, June, \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.

 

Trailer for podcast on Hou Hsiao-hsien’s The Time to Live and The Time to Die (1985)

Our next podcast will be on THE TIME TO LIVE AND THE TIME TO DIE. The trailer below will hopefully give a taster of the film for those who might not yet have seen it:
<iframe src=”https://player.vimeo.com/video/549874059&#8243; width=”640″ height=”346″ frameborder=”0″ allow=”autoplay; fullscreen; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe>

Thinking Aloud About Film: Hou Hsiao-hsieng 5 – The Boys From Fengkuei aka All The Youthful Days (1983)

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

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

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

 

José Arroyo

 

Thinking Aloud About Film: Hou Hsiao-hsien 4 – The Sandwich Man (1983)

A discussion of The Sandwich Man, an omnibus film based on the short stories of Hwang Chun-ming, with episodes from Hou Hsiao-hsien (His Son’s Big Doll aka The Sandwich Man), Tseng Shuan-hsiang (Hsiao-ch’i’s Hat/Vick’s Hat) and Wan Jen (The Taste of Apples), that is said to have helped launch New Taiwanese Cinema. We talk about the three different episodes, how so many New Waves incorporated omnibus or portmanteau films as a form of self advertisement, the relationship to The Bicycle Thief, the way it allegorises and comments on conflicts and changes in Taiwanese cinema and society….and much more. It 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

 

Jose’s part of the discussion drew on:

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,

and:  Wen Tien-Hsiang (Trans .by Gan Sheuo Hui), ‘Hou Hsiao-Hsien: a standard for evaluating Taiwan’s cinema’, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, vol.9, No. 2, 2008, pp. 211-238.

Readers might also be interested in hearing the programmer of the Venice Film Festival talk about his discovery of this cinema, an excerpt from Chinlin Hsieh’s Flowers of Taipei: Taiwanese New Wave Cinema, 2014.

According to Diffrient, these films were ‘Made for a ‘younger, more educated audience’ than their predecessors of the previous decades, and foregrounding aspects of ‘indigenous Taiwanese life’ that were becoming increasingly visible in ‘language, literature, and rural subjects’, these films are touchstones in contemporary Taiwanese cinema, together representing ‘major changes in style, theme, and audience’ that reflected larger social and political transformations at the time of their release (Yeh and Davis 2005: 56).

The Sandwich Man is a foundational text in the history of New Taiwanese Cinema, which launched in 1982, and which ended four years later with the 1986 signing of the Taiwan Cinema Manifesto.

Diffrient argues that Hou’s cinema, shares with the mainland’s Fifth Generation, ‘

‘a penchant for long takes, long shots, composition-in-depth, self-reflexivity, sparse dialogue, subtle gestures, and a suppression of the shot- reverse-shot, utilizes a quasi-episodic, elliptical editing style that recalls Frantz Fanon’s emphasis on mobilizing the discontinuous, fragmentary and image-based history of the colonized to enunciate a postcolonial imaginary’.

Richard adds:

Note, we should clarify that there’s some confusion regarding the names on the titles. The ones given on screen were Hou Hsiao-hsien – “His Son’s Big Doll” (some sources refer to this story as “The Sandwich Man”), Tseng Shuan-hsiang – “Vick’s Hat” (I can see references to “Hsiao-ch’i’s Hat” in a couple of articles and also “Xiao qi’s Hat” and “Vicki’s Hat” – perhaps Vicki is an anglicisation of Xiao qi).  I suspect some of this comes from the English translation of the book. To add to the confusion the book of short stories is called “The Taste of Apples” and in that one the story is called “Xiaoqi’s Cap”

We will continue these discussions in further episodes.

The book is available in English from Columbia University Press

a couple of reviews Richard enjoyed from a screening at the UK Taiwan Film Festival online last year
All these reviews call the first segment “The Sandwich Man” so Richard  wonders if that is how it is named on screen in current English sub-titiled prints.
José did a trailer for the podcast which can be seen below:

We will continue to add links as we find them.

José Arroyo