Tag Archives: Hou Hsiao-hsien

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.

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/

Jose’s suggestions for further reading:

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.

 

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:

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

Thinking Aloud About Film: Hou Hsiao-hsien 2 – Cheerful Wind (aka) Play While You Play

Thinking Aloud About Film continues it’s exploration of the cinema of Hou Hsiao-hsien with a discussion of Cheerful Wind aka Play While you Play, a charming musical romantic comedy, an exploration of filmmaking itself, and a re-teeming of the cast that made the previous Cute Girl such a success.

I made a trailer for the podcast which showcases a funny if crude opening scene and begins to demonstrate how self-reflexive the film is about cinema:

In the podcast we also refer to the following, which will give you a visual idea of what we’re talking about

Blind Man With Camera
What’s with the hand holding
Grey mountains

 

Artistry of shots

We have an extended discussion of Kenny Bee’s camping:

Kenny camps it up

 

Kenny speed-walks:

José Arroyo

Hal Young: ‘Yi Yi and the Power of Long Fixed Shots´

Creator’s Statement

For my video essay, I wanted to illuminate the mastery of Edward Yang’s Yi Yi. While this film had a significant emotional impact upon my first viewing- and, seemingly, on others too, garnering critical acclaim and winning festival award upon its release- I soon realised that there isn’t a particularly large body of reflective critical writing on it. Further driving me to base my essay around Yang’s film were my memories of a movie we previously studied during the first year of the degree: Dust in the Wind, by Hou Hsiao-hsien, a filmmaker, who, like Yang, was part of the New Taiwan Cinema Movement, which began in the 1980s. To an even greater degree than Yang’s work, Dust in the Wind contains numerous long takes and static shots, which led several classmates to deem it as dull, with some even noting it to be their least favourite film from the Film History module that year. Therefore, I wanted to draw attention to the possible strengths of this aesthetic, and hopefully, convert those who had once been dismissive of it. Yi Yi, I believe, is a good entry point into an appreciation of this style of movie. Containing universal themes on existentialism and loneliness, and appealing, relatable characters, Yi Yi is an accessible film, regardless of one’s knowledge of Taiwan.

Running to almost three hours and being a multifaceted film, which can be approached from numerous angles, one of the challenges I faced when planning out my video essay was in attempting to keep a tight focus only on certain aspects of Yi Yi. Initially, my plan was to focus solely on the way in which the environments of the film reflect the characters. However, I soon discovered that another video essay had already been done on that. Though disheartened at first, I eventually noticed that, while excellent in discussing the framing of Yi Yi, the video had neglected to properly explore the length of its shots, something which I believed was central to appreciating the cinematography of the film. Therefore, I decided to use the notion of the long, static take, as a way in which to explore, and appreciate, Yi Yi’s aesthetic and narrative components, splitting my exploration into separate sections to give it a tighter structure. I wanted the editing style of my own video essay to be reflective of this, leaving shots from Yang’s film onscreen for as long as possible, in order to further elucidate, and be accurate of, the length of the shots used. Yet, working within time constraints meant it was difficult to fully articulate the tension and length of Yi Yi’s shots. So, I used my introduction, which explored both how cutting, and long-takes, are often used in popular and modern cinema, as a device to create a greater contrast when I began to discuss Yi Yi; its stillness being more discernible when sequenced after a hectic series of clips. For this introduction, my editing style was inspired by popular Youtube video essayists, like ‘Nerdwriter’, and ‘Every Frame a Painting’, whose videos are energetic, engaging, and, importantly, accessible. I hoped that, by beginning in a similar style to their videos, I would draw in viewers, who would then remain engaged through the more complex arguments made when I eventually begin discussing Yi Yi.

On a final note, it is perhaps worth mentioning that a common trait I have noticed amongst video essayists online is that, when praising a certain work, it will often come at the expense of another work. I find this to be unfortunate, as I believe a work can be praised on its own, singular terms. Though I draw an initial contrast between Yi Yi and the editing style in other films, I use my conclusion to stress that no one method of filmmaking is better than another, as I did not want my argument to be viewed as an ‘either/or’ type. Though the prior mention of other styles of filmmaking was necessary in elaborating the ‘slowness’ of Yi Yiwithin my time constraints, I wanted to communicate my appreciation of its aesthetic primarily through its own merits and achievements.

Hal Young