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Good Men, Good Women (1995)

Hao nan hao nu (original title)
Intended as the concluding film in the trilogy on the modern history of Taiwan began with Beiqing Chengshi (1989), this film reveals the story through three levels: a film within a film as ... See full summary »



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Credited cast:
Annie Shizuka Inoh ...
Liang Ching / Chiang Bi-Yu
Giong Lim ...
Chung Hao-Tung
Jack Kao ...
Ah Wei
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Chia-Hui Bao
Cheng-Liang Chen
Chiao-e Chen
Duan Chen
Fei-Wen Chen
Hsin Yi Chen
Ming-Chung Chen
Shu-Fang Chen
Yi-Shan Chen
Kuei-Chung Cheng
Ching-Hsia Chiang


Intended as the concluding film in the trilogy on the modern history of Taiwan began with Beiqing Chengshi (1989), this film reveals the story through three levels: a film within a film as well as the past and present as linked by a young woman, Liang Ching. She is being persecuted by an anonymous man who calls her repeatedly but does not speak. He has stolen her diary and faxes her pages daily. Liang is also rehearsing for a new film that is due to go into production soon. The film, entitled Haonan Haonu, is about a couple Chiang Bi-yu and Chung Hao-tung who returns to China to participate in the anti-Japanese movement in China in the 1940s and are arrested as communists when they go back to Taiwan. Written by L.H. Wong <as9401k56@ntuvax.ntu.ac.sg>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | History | Romance





Release Date:

9 December 1995 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

Good Men, Good Women  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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User Reviews

One of Hou's greatest achievements
28 June 2004 | by (Vancouver, B.C.) – See all my reviews

Encouraged by American foreign policy, the Kuomintang government in Taiwan in the 1950s began a policy of repression of real or suspected communists who were rounded up by the military police, detained, and often shot. This event, known as the White Terror, was suppressed in Taiwan, along with the 2-28-47 massacres, without any public discussion for forty years. Only the trees were witnesses and the story could not be told until martial law was lifted in 1987, yet even now remains clouded with hints of undisclosed crimes. Hou Hsiao-hsien's 1995 film Good Men, Good Women dramatizes the Taiwanese people's fear and reluctance to deal with their past, showing the effects of Taiwan's forgotten history on the destiny of an actress in present-day Taiwan. Dedicated to all the political victims of the 1950s, the film uses the device of a "film within a film" to tell the story of real-life activists Chiang Bi-Yu (also played by Inoh) and her husband Hao-Tung (Giong Lim) who fought in China against the Japanese during World War II but were arrested as Communists when they came home.

Good Men, Good Women takes place in three different time sequences: the contemporary world of actress Liang Ching (Annie Shizuka Inoh), her recollection of her recent past as a drug-addicted barmaid, and the world of a yet to be made film about resistance fighters in the 1940s. Hou suggests a contrast between the sterile, corrupt lives of the present generation and the young people of the past who acted with a social conscience. While it is a complex and elliptical film, it is one of Hou's greatest, filled with tenderness and sensuality and an aching melancholy for a world whose promise has remained unfulfilled.

The film opens with a parade of young people dressed as peasants who march toward the camera singing a joyous song: "When yesterday's sadness is about to die. When tomorrow's good cheer is marching towards us. Then people say, don't cry. So why don't we sing." The camera then cuts to present day Taipei where an unidentified caller telephones Liang Chang but refuses to speak. The caller has stolen her diaries, and faxes her the pages daily prompting her to recall her tragic relationship with Ah Wei (Jack Kao), a gangster who died in a shootout. The film intersperses scenes of intimacy between the two lovers with the world of the 1940s where Chiang Bi-Yu and Hao-Tung, have left Taiwan for the Chinese mainland to support the anti-Japanese resistance. The "film within a film" shows how Chiang and Hao are forced to put their children in foster care and Liang identifies with Chiang, drawing parallels from her own experience of having to give up the things she loved the most.

Hou shows that events buried in a nation's past can have far reaching consequences and that history may be indistinguishable from personal memory. Yet the film is not one of ideas but of images and Hou has provided some memorable ones; for example, when Liang sits before a mirror putting on her makeup as Ah Wei sits closely beside her talking about the possibility of her being pregnant. It is a mundane event, yet Hou imparts it with a mysterious and timeless quality. In many ways, Good Men, Good Women is typical of Hou's films with its static camera, long takes, and rhythms of everyday life, yet it is also his most political, a searing indictment of the squandering of a nation's heritage, allowing us to see that a country, like its people, cannot redeem its future until it tells the truth about its past.

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