Tag Archives: New Taiwanese Cinema

Hou Hsiao-hsien 25: Contexts 15 – Growing Up (Chen Kunhou, 1983)

We discuss this absorbing and extremely likeable film in the context of New Taiwanese Cinema. Chen Kunhou was then Hou’s regular cinematographer. This feels , to an extent,  like a transition between the style of the earlier Hou films and the later ones. Hou Hsiao-hsien collaborated on the screenplay and we compare this to Hou’s earlier films (and find it lacking). There’s a sense that that this is a first try for ideas that were better developed in Boys from Fengkuei & Time to Live and a Time to Die.

There are spoilers in the podcast. The film is a maternal melodrama, where the mother’s point of view is sidelined in favour of the son’s, the husband’s, the society, a childhood schoolmate of the son. We find fault with the screenplay, the structure and the visual story-telling. What in Hou feel like ellipses that afford depth, here  come across as unbelievable plot holes or plot twists. We are nonetheless very charmed by it and highly recommend.

The podcast my 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

An example of the clumsy visual story-telling we refer to may be found below:


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:



Perfect camera placement: