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A-yuan and A-yun are both from the small mining town of Jio-fen. In the city, A-yuan is an apprentice by day and goes to night school, and A-yun works as a helper at a tailors. Everyone thinks they are meant for each other, so do they. They fail to see time and fate are beyond their control. Written by
The screen is totally black and after a few moments a very unclear spot seems to flicker in the middle; just a few more moments and the tiny white spot gets clear; the spot gets bigger: it's the end of a railroad tunnel, and a train is running through the mountains. The movie has just started.
Made in 1986, Dust in the Wind belongs to the first artistic decade of Hou Hsiao-Hsien. This was a period when the Taiwanese director was preoccupied by the story of his own generation: the youngsters from the sixties, coming to age while their country was coming to age. Teenagers leaving the countryside for the big cities, facing the challenges of an unknown environment, trying to understand the new realities and to adapt, while still reluctant. Youngsters behaving erratically, like dust in the wind, dreaming big, till confronted by time and fate: time to erode all illusions, fate to treat all dreams like dust in the wind.
Nothing remarkable happens in this movie. You can consider the plot as extremely boring, only this is not the point. Also some reviewers stressed out the unsentimental approach of the director in telling a story that after all implies sentiments. It's true, but again, this is not the point. Like in all films of Hou Hsiao-Hsien, the plot has the unique role to create a universe, and to leave room for meditation. The language of images is here essential, to operate on the subconscious level. Watching Dust in the Wind calls immediately in mind the world from the movies of De Sica, but the Taiwanese master gets subtly beyond. It's just amazing how this director takes the sordid (in good neorealist tradition), finds the perfect place for each actor, for each object, and processes everything in hypnotic long takes.
The influence of Ozu is also present in this movie (let away the same love for railroad scenes, think at the last scene, showing the ocean: it's the moment of stasis, the way all Ozu's works end; coming immediately after the dramatic outcome of the plot, it suggests that whatever happens is unimportant in the cosmic order of things; life will go on anyway). What differentiates Ozu and Hou is the way they treat the plot. If you watch any movie created by Ozu, you have the feeling that the Japanese master is seated near you, enjoying the events from the screen as much as you do. For Hou the story is like an executive summary, detailed just to the point where the images can exist on their own to play on the hypnotic register.
I found Dust in the Wind on youTube, in ten consecutive videos. I know that watching a movie by Hou Hsiao-Hsien on youTube can be painful, so I suggest you get a DVD copy, if possible. I watched it on youTube, and my Internet connection was getting slower every now and then. However it paid.
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