November 2 – November 16

THE PAST IS A FOREIGN COUNTRY: THE CINEMA OF HOU HSIAO-HSIEN

Hou Hsiao-Hsien (1947–) is one of the key figures of contemporary cinema, a widely acclaimed and awarded filmmaker who has produced intimate, epic, historical, domestic, international and supremely local works of exquisite beauty and formal rigour for over 30 years.

Hou’s cinema is often concerned with his experiences of growing up in rural Taiwan in the 1950s and 1960s, a time which saw the settlement of refugee families from the Mainland, severe social and political controls and the beginnings of the most significant social changes in modern Taiwanese history (the economic boom that led to widespread Westernisation and urbanisation). Hou’s films are intimate expressions of these tumultuous times and experiences, as well as profound meditations on history, identity, growing up and the materiality of everyday life. Hou’s emotionally charged work is replete with highly nostalgic and bittersweet images, their power lying in his cinema’s total immersion in the past and its sympathies for the fate of families and individuals who suffered during difficult times. In a poetic yet relaxed style, Hou’s films reflect a deep sympathy, everyday materiality and profound humanism not unlike the work of Yasujiro Ozu (an avowed influence).

This season brings together a number of Hou’s greatest films to explore the key trends in his work from the exquisite memory works of 19th-century China and mid-20th-century Taiwan (A Time to Live, A Time to Die and Dust in the Wind) to his epic but intimate account of the aftermath of the formation of modern Taiwan (his masterwork, A City of Sadness) and the series of mature works that fully demonstrate his place as a modern master (Three Times, Flight of the Red Balloon, The Assassin).

November 02

7:00PM – A CITY OF SADNESS
Hou Hsiao-Hsien
 (1989) 157 mins M

Hou’s most commercially successful film in Taiwan is a complex, panoramic and politically bold family saga beautifully shot by Chen Huai-en. Set at the time of the formation of modern Taiwan, between the end of WWII and Nationalist China’s fall to the communists in 1949, it is the director’s most ambitious, devastating and expansive film. The remarkable dramatic thrust of Hou’s film lies in its constant evocation of transience and the precariousness of its characters’ lives, as well as its status as the first movie to openly deal with the “white terror” unleashed by the Kuomintang government in the late 1940s. Stars Tony Chiu Wai Leung and Jack Kao.

35mm print courtesy of the National Film and Sound Archive, Australia.

CTEQ ANNOTATION:
‘A City of Sadness’ by Aquarello.


9:45PM – THE ASSASSIN

Hou Hsiao-Hsien
 (2015) 107 mins PG

Hou’s most recent film is a widely celebrated wuxia based on a famous story by Pei Xing about a looming, seemingly inevitable outbreak of violence predestined by the forces of history and ancestry. Hou applies his meditative and meticulously choreographed “slow cinema” style to the traditionally energetic, action-oriented genre in order to canvas an array of politically resonant tensions between what is visible and obscured, flatness and depth, isolation and population, myth and reality, intrigue and action (or inaction). With Shu Qi and Chang Chen.

November 09

7:00PM – A TIME TO LIVE, A TIME TO DIE

Hou Hsiao-Hsien
 (1985) 138 mins PG

A resonant and moving account of two periods in 20th-century Taiwanese history as seen through the eyes of a boy whose family has recently emigrated from Mainland China. Shot with extraordinary delicacy by Mark Lee Ping Bin, Hou’s autobiographical masterpiece is a brilliantly simple but multi-faceted portrait of loss and the complacency of childhood. FIPRESCI Prize winner at the Berlin Film Festival; Tony Rayns called it “One of the cinema’s classic visions of childhood and adolescence”. Co-written by Hou’s regular collaborator Chu T’ien-wen.

35mm print courtesy of the National Film and Sound Archive, Australia.

CTEQ ANNOTATION:
“Chinese Cheers”: Hou Hsiao-hsien and Transnational Homage” by Nicholas de Villiers.


9:30PM – DUST IN THE WIND

Hou Hsiao-Hsien
 (1987) 109 mins PG

Hou’s eighth film, detailing the bittersweet fate of a young couple who move from a remote mining town to Taipei, was the aesthetic culmination of the director’s early filmmaking career. It crystallised for the first time his signature style, in which seemingly small moments and detail provide signs of major narrative developments. It also continued the screenwriting collaboration between Chu T’ien-wen and Wu Nien-jen, whose own background story the script is based on. The film features significant contributions from regular Hou collaborators cinematographer Mark Lee Ping Bin and Li Tian-lu as Grandpa.

35mm print courtesy of the National Film and Sound Archive, Australia.

https://mubi.com/films/dust-in-the-wind#watch_trailer

November 16

7:00pm – THREE TIMES

Hou Hsiao-Hsien
 (2005) 120 mins PG

Recognised on its arrival as a new pinnacle in Hou’s work, this masterful film uses a tripartite structure to explore the relationship between young men and women across three periods: 1966, 1911 and 2005. The three couples are played by the same actors, art-house drawcard Chang Chen (Happy Together and The Assassin) and Shu Qi (Millennium Mambo and The Assassin). Hou’s complex, sensuous minimalism emphasises repetition and timelessness, on one hand, while contrasting the manners and sexual mores of different periods, on the other.

CTEQ ANNOTATION:
The Complexity of Minimalism: Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Three Times by Dag Sødtholt.


9:10PM – FLIGHT OF THE RED BALLOON

Hou Hsiao-Hsien
 (2007) 115 mins PG

Hou’s first film shot outside Asia is a typically profound and measured expansion of Albert Lamorisse’s iconic and much-loved 1956 short, The Red Balloon. A mood of sublime restraint is created through exquisite technique, as textures, texts and cultures double upon each other in a paradoxically opaque clarity. Juliette Binoche as the mother of the balloon-pursuer is in career-best form, alongside Fang Song as the film student babysitter. “In its unexpected rhythms and visual surprises… its creative misunderstandings and its outré syntheses, this is a movie of genius” (J. Hoberman).

CTEQ ANNOTATION:
‘Flight of the Red Balloon by Darragh O’Donoghue.

February 5
OPENING NIGHT

February 12 – February 26
VITTORIO DE SICA: CINEMA, ITALIAN STYLE

March 4 – March 18
LIGHT AND SHADOW: THE MERCURIAL STARDOM OF MARLENE DIETRICH

March 23 – April 6
CAST A DARK SHADOW: THE BEAUTIFUL SADNESS OF DIRK BOGARDE

April 13 – April 29
THE BIG CARNIVAL: THE FILMS OF BILLY WILDER

May 6 – May 20
“LIFE’S PARADE AT YOUR FINGERTIPS”: DOUGLAS SIRK

May 27 – June 10
WILDFLOWERS: DANCING, DESIRE AND FREEDOM IN THE FILMS OF GILLIAN ARMSTRONG

June 17 – July 1
DRIFTING STATES: THE FILMS OF APICHATPONG WEERASETHAKUL

July 8
AT HOME IN THE WORLD: CECIL HOLMES, ACTIVIST FILMMAKER

July 15 – July 29
HIROSHI SHIMIZU: FORGOTTEN MASTER

September 2 – September 16
JEAN COCTEAU: THE POETRY OF DREAMS

September 23 – September 30
QUEERING THE ARCHIVE: THE CINEMA OF BARBARA HAMMER

October 7 – October 14
GALLOWS BACCHANALIAS, FRACTIOUS FAIRY-TALES AND THE RULE OF THREE: THE CINEMA OF JURAJ JAKUBISKO

October 21 – November 4
REACHING BEYOND THE FRAME: THE POETIC CINEMA OF ABBAS KIAROSTAMI

November 11 – November 25
BORSCHT, SAUERKRAUT, GOULASH AND LEMONADE: AN INTRODUCTION TO OSTERNS AND RED WESTERNS

December 2 – December 16
THE LAND IS OURS: YOUSSEF CHAHINE