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This depiction of childhood and adolescence draws heavily from the filmmaker's own boyhood. Like many of their compatriots, Hou's family moved from the mainland to Taiwan in 1948 and was unable ever to return. The film focuses on the widening generation gap in a family cut off from its cultural heritage. Written by
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This film is inspired by screenwriter-turned-director Hou Hsiao-Hsien's coming-of-age story. It is the second installment of Hou Hsiao-Hsien's "Coming-of-Age Trilogy" that features three prominent Taiwanese screenwriters' coming-of-age stories - the other two are _My Summer at Grandpa's (1984)_ (inspired by the childhood memories of Chu Tien-Wen) and _Dust in the Wind (1986)_ (inspired by the coming-of-age story of Wu Nien-Jen). See more »
The most personal work by one of the greatest living directors
This film, which first brought Hou and the Taiwanese New Wave to international attention, seems deceptively simple, like your run-of-the mill growing-up-humbly-in-a-third-world-country narrative: a young boy, whose family has been transplanted from China to Taiwan, faces a hard path to adulthood complete with neighborhood tussles and family deaths. But gradually its manner of telling draws you in: at first, events seem like fragmented vignettes, but are actually blended in a succession that has been described as `like watching clouds floating by.' His propensity towards graphically composed, image-driven storytelling recalls the styles of Ozu, Satyajit Ray and even Tarkovsky, but where Hou excels is in applying his style towards an examination on the nature of history. For my money, there has never been a filmmaker as consumed by the idea of history than Hou, and this deeply autobiographical film may shed light on his motivations. By the time we reach the devastating ending, there's an overwhelming feeling of a time and place, an entire way of life, that has slowly disappeared before our eyes, but even more heartbreaking is the profound sense of guilt, of youthful opportunity squandered in hoodlum-like loitering, of parents whose presence was taken for granted until the sudden arrival of their ineffable absence. Watch this film to see how movies are humankind's noble, anxious attempt to retrieve lost time, and how the retrieval only reflects back on the mournful permanence of that loss.
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