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A Time to Live, a Time to Die (1985)
"Tong nien wang shi" (original title)

 |  Biography, Drama  |  1988 (USA)
7.8
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 1,178 users  
Reviews: 12 user | 9 critic

The semi-autobiographical film on director Hou Hsiao-Hsien's childhood and adolescence, when he was growing up in Taiwan, living through the deaths of his father, mother and grandmother.

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(as Hsiao-Hsien Hou) , , 2 more credits »

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, (as Hsiao-Hsien Hou)
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Title: A Time to Live, a Time to Die (1985)

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Cast

Credited cast:
Chia-bao Chang
Neng Chang
Chih-chen Chen
Han-wen Chen
Shu-Fang Chen
Bao-te Chiang
Tung-hung Chou
Ai Hsiao
Hsiang-ping Hu
Tung-lai Kao
Chung-Wen Lin
Kuo-bao Liu
Cheng-ye Lo
Shun-lin Lo
Tse-chung Lo
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Storyline

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 International Film Circuit <ifcplanet@aol.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Biography | Drama

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Details

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Release Date:

1988 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Time to Live and a Time to Die  »

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

(Buenos Aires Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente) |

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

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 »

Connections

Featured in Naamsaang-neuiseung (1998) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Coming of age in Taiwan
25 December 2014 | by (Upstate New York) – See all my reviews

The Taiwanese movie Tong nien wang shi was shown in the U.S. with the title A Time to Live, a Time to Die (1985). The movie was co-written and directed by Hsiao-hsien Hou, and is said to be semi-autobiographical.

The film is a coming of age story of Ah-Ha, whom we meet as a boy of about seven, and whose life we follow until his late teen years. Ah-Ha's family fled China in 1947, and now live in Taiwan. At first, there was still talk about recapturing the mainland, although those discussions faded away as the reality became clear. Still, Ah-Ha's grandmother is convinced that she can walk back to the mainland, and frequently asks people to help her to get there.

If the movie does, indeed, contain autobiographical elements, Hsiao-hsien Hou had a difficult boyhood. His family was poor, and Illness stalked them. As a teenager, Ah-Ha joins a gang that is extraordinarily violent. (The violence takes place off screen, but it is an ever-present plot element in the second half of the film.)

The plot doesn't give us too many heart-rending moments, but it's still very grim. In fact, as I thought back about it, there was only one truly positive scene when—to Ah-Ha's astonishment--his grandmother is able to juggle three guavas. Imagine a movie that is more than two hours long, and has only about 30 seconds of true happiness in it.

It's hard to recommend a movie like this, but, on the positive side, the camera work is brilliant, the acting is excellent, and the film gives us a glimpse of what life was like for a Chinese subculture—people from the mainland who migrated to Taiwan.

We saw this movie at the excellent Dryden Theatre at Eastman House in Rochester, NY as part of a Hsiao-hsien Hou retrospective. It will work well on DVD.


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