Four GOOD reasons to watch GOOD MEN
Even for some dedicated film fans, their knowledge of East Asian cinema directors does not extend beyond Ang Lee, Johnnie To, Wong Kar-wai, John Woo and Zhang Yimou. This is why the retrospective now playing at the TIFF Bell Lightbox until March 1st is the best place to become acquainted with this essential , if perhaps lesser-known, director.
Good reason one: The curator of the retrospective, Richard I. Suchenski , will be introducing Flowers of Shanghai (1998) on January 29th, and Dust in the Wind (1987) on January 30th. Suchenski literally wrote the book on Hou Hsiao-hsien, which came out in 2014. What better way to start a retrospective for a filmmaker than to have the curator there?
Good reason two: City of Sadness (1989), the winner of the Golden Lion at the 1989 Venice Film Festival, (the first Taiwanese film to ever win, there have been two since), a very harrowing film exploring Taiwan’s difficult history, (Martial Law was only removed in 1987) and The Puppetmaster, a complex film that explores, yes, a master of puppets, but also Japan’s prolonged occupation of Taiwan, and winner of the Jury Prize at Cannes both screen for free, City of Sadness on February 1st, and The Puppetmaster on February 21st.
Good reason three: This retrospective is as much about the future as about the past. Hou Hsiao-Hsien is set to release a film in 2015 called The Assassin, starring his frequent muse Qi Shu. This is Hou’s first film since 2007, and has been filming for almost five years. When this film gains international attention, and it will, won’t it be best to contribute to a discussion of Hou’s earlier films?
Good reason four: That previous film, Flight of the Red Balloon, was Hou’s first foray into the west, and stars cinematic treasure Juliette Binoche, who enhances every movie. This film is a retelling of The Red Balloon, and hopefully, watching Hou’s film leads to a screening of the original The Red Balloon, which is a classic short directed by Albert Lamorisse, inventor of the board game Risk. Speaking of influences, the French director Olivier Assayas is a huge fan of Hou’s, and his film Clouds of Sils Maria, which played at TIFF and will be coming to the Lightbox in April, frequently cats Juliette Binoche in his films, as well as Kristen Stewart.
Good reason four: Hou Hsaio-Hsien is first and foremost a stylist, and perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in his film Good Men, Good Women (1995) for which the retrospective is named. The film screens on February 7th, and is one of those films that is so intensely layered and difficult to describe, it must be experienced. There are a few obvious themes at play, like eternal recurrence, and the past catching up to the present, and rebirth, and longing and love, it is simply an absolutely essential view. Though the interlocking but divergent storylines may be hard to follow, the scope of the film, from sound to look to dialogue which is often repeated, to one of the more devastating endings ever seen, (the way that the film comes together is masterful), Good Men, Good Women deserves at least one viewing, and certainly more.
See tiff.net/hou for more details on GOOD MEN, GOOD WOMEN.