Six Films by Hou Hsiao-hsien

Through May 13

"The 21st century belongs to Asia, and Hou is its historian, its prophet, and its poet laureate."
— Jonathan Rosenbaum, Film Comment

From April 5 through May 13, the Gene Siskel Film Center presents “Six Films by Hou Hsiao-hsien,” a selection of rarely shown films by the acclaimed Taiwanese director who has been whom called “the world’s greatest working narrative filmmaker” (J. Hoberman, Village Voice). All six films are currently out of distribution in the United States, and all are being shown in 35mm prints.

Thematically, most of Hou’s work revolves around the dilemma of his generation--born in China but raised in rapidly evolving Taiwan by parents and grandparents whose vision was fixed on the past, on the now-lost land of their ancestors. He tells stories of footloose and alienated youth, of smalltime gangsters and bar girls, displaced farmers, jack-of-all-trades hustlers--all those who have little past and no future.

Hou was born in 1948 and spent his childhood in a provincial town in southern Taiwan, a locale that figures prominently in his films. He is reputed to have spent his youth on the fringes of the underworld, a milieu that he also frequently depicts. After completing his army service in 1969, he studied filmmaking at the National Taiwan Academy of the Arts.

In the early Eighties, along with director Edward Yang, Hou turned his back on the aesthetic of Taiwan’s commercial film industry and began making films that were extremely personal in both form and content. Key among the filmmakers whose work became known as the Taiwanese New Wave, Hou developed a form of storytelling that centers around the detail of daily life. His stories evolve out of long-held takes, and they invariably find their focus in scenes of the family at the dinner table or men gathered around the wok at a street stall.

All of Hou’s films are constructed of long and medium-distance shots; there are few if any close-ups. While this may sound unusual to the uninitiated, a too-radical departure from the storytelling methods we know, one need only see one of Hou’s films to understand how effectively he makes this work. His narratives are presented in the manner in which our eyes see. They take in the full story in its own time and place.

Discussing his methods in Toronto in 1989, Hou revealed that he first eschewed close-ups in his work because he knew that the non-professional actors he frequently employs did not have the skill to carry scenes at close range. What began as a strategy of necessity quickly became an aesthetic choice. Meaning in Hou’s work is conveyed through the entire fabric of life in all its nuances.

— Barbara Scharres

“Six Films by Hou Hsiao-hsien” is a selection from “Also like Life: The Films of Hsiao-hsien,” an international retrospective organized by Richard I. Suchenski (Director, Center for Moving Image Arts at Bard College), in collaboration with the Taipei Cultural Center, the Taiwan Film Institute, and the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of China (Taiwan). The book “Hou Hsiao-hsien” (Vienna: Österreichisches Filmmuseum and New York: Columbia University Press, 2014) has been released in conjunction with this retrospective.

PREVIOUSLY

DUST IN THE WIND

(LIEN LIEN FUNG CHEN)

1987, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Taiwan, 109 min. With Hsin Shu-feng, Wang Chien-wen

Showtimes:

  • Sun, Apr 5th 3:00pm
  • Wed, Apr 8th 6:00pm

A TIME TO LIVE AND A TIME TO DIE

(TONGNIAN WANGSHI)

1985, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Taiwan, 137 min. With You An-shun, Tian Feng

Showtimes:

  • Fri, Apr 10th 6:00pm
  • Sat, Apr 11th 3:00pm

MILLENNIUM MAMBO

(QIANXI MANBO)

2001, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Taiwan, 119 min.
With Shu Qi, Tuan Chun-hao

Showtimes:

  • Fri, Apr 17th 6:00pm
  • Sun, Apr 19th 3:00pm

GOOD MEN, GOOD WOMEN

(HAONAN HAONU)

1995, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Taiwan, 108 min. With Annie Shizuka Inoh, Lin Chung

Showtimes:

  • Sun, Apr 26th 3:00pm
  • Wed, Apr 29th 6:00pm

Richard Suchenski on Hou Hsiao-hsien” lecture/discussion accompanied by a screening of:

THE PUPPETMASTER

(HSIMENG RENSHENG)

1993, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Taiwan, 142 min. With Li Tien-lu, Lin Chiang

Showtimes:

  • Sat, May 2nd 3:00pm
New 35mm print!

FLOWERS OF SHANGHAI

(HAI SHANG HUA)

1998, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Taiwan, 113 min. With Tony Leung, Michiko Hada

Showtimes:

  • Sun, May 10th 3:00pm
  • Wed, May 13th 6:00pm