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Good Men, Good Women (1995)
"Hao nan hao nu" (original title)

7.3
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 649 users  
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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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Title: Good Men, Good Women (1995)

Good Men, Good Women (1995) on IMDb 7.3/10

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Cast

Credited cast:
Annie Shizuka Inoh ...
Liang Ching / Chiang Bi-Yu
Giong Lim ...
Chung Hao-Tung
Jack Kao ...
Ah Wei
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Ah-Cheng
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
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Storyline

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>

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Drama | History | Romance

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Release Date:

9 December 1995 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

Good Men, Good Women  »

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User Reviews

 
Puzzling multi-layered picture of Taiwan's past and present
26 February 2006 | by (Berkeley, California) – See all my reviews

Hou's concept is an interesting one: instead of a straight linear narrative either about the White Terror period in Taiwanese history or about an actor with a dead gangster boyfriend, he overlaps the two, and adds a further layer by putting the gangster a couple of years ago, and the actress now getting ready to act in a historical film about the White Terror, while being bugged in the present by somebody who sends her faxes of a stolen diary about the gangster, and calls and breathes into the phone. Hou isn't trying to spoon-feed us, and that's admirable. He is also allowing us to ponder complex inter-historical relationships. But the effect of the spliced layers is jarring and doesn't always work. Another DVD reviewer (like me), John Wallis, of DVD Talk, has already commented that he "could not see how the film about the White Terror atrocities affected the actress in any way -- other than it made her lamenting over her lost boyfriend and soiled past seem pretty trivial." Is it that bad? Nick Schrager and Aquerello have offered the interpretation that after the gangster boyfriend's death, Liang Ching, the actress, is guilty of a " betrayal of his memory during her subsequent years as a drug-addled bar hostess." Schrager concludes that "The implication, as subtle as it is powerful, is that Liang's struggle to come to grips with her own disloyalty reflects modern-day Taiwan's attempts to confront (and accept) its own shameful past persecuting communists." Aquerello puts it that "Liang's betrayal of Ah Wei's memory is a modern day, personal manifestation of a national, historical event: the seemingly random persecution of Taiwanese people by their own government during the White Terror." That's a nice idea, but in fact Liang was a drug-addled bar hostess while involved with Ah Wei (Jack Kao), the gangster; when they have a discussion of her pregnancy while caressing in front of a mirror -- a stagy but compelling scene many writers have commented favorably on -- she points out that being a bar hostess, she has slept with many men, and she doesn't know for sure who the father is. ("Still, I'd like to see a little Ah Wei," says Ah Wei, rather lamely.) The guilt is not so clear. What is clear is that Liang Ching has had an unsavory past, and that her dissolute life has been a far cry from the dedication of the brave revolutionary she is going to portray on screen.

What is also clear (though the Fox Lorber DVD tonal quality is mediocre, particularly in the black and while segments) is the idealism of the Taiwanese nationalist fighters, who go to China to fight the Japanese who have been oppressing them but then after the war is over, are systematically exterminated (in a policy designed to please America, by the way). Some of these scenes, such as one where one person after another is briefly interrogated, have an arresting and somehow heartrendingly tender vérité quality, as does the scene where female fighters are taken from a prison room to be executed. There is a wealth of beauty in the film, even when the present-day sequences seem most contrived and boring, like a gangster dinner with city contractors just before Ah Wei's shot.

It is also true as Acquerello says that, "As Liang becomes the entrusted emissary for the story of Chiang Bi-Yu's struggle, she gradually becomes the generational conduit between Taiwan's turbulent past, and the decadent, uncertain future." That's about all we can say; what Hou means by this linkage is hard to guess, and perhaps only meant to be pondered, without any conclusions being drawn.

Howard Shumann has written a typically clear and informative review of "Good Men, Good Women" for Cinescene that clarifies the general structure and historical references of the film. My own reactions are quite different, however. I wouldn't be as extreme as the IMDb commenter who has called Hou's film-making "cinematic masturbation," or use the language of Sam Adams of the Philadelphia City Paper (2002) who calls "Good Men, Good Women" "a confused exercise" and suggests it's self-indulgent. But I have to agree with Adams that, "Good Men feels so arbitrary that its closing-title dedication — to the victims of the anti-Communist purges of the 1950s — is almost shocking; it's hard to believe the director could take a subject that seriously and make a film this self-indulgent." The shifts from the present-day actress's discomfort and her flashbacks to life with Ah Wei to the historical film-making never seem predictable. Some might find that intriguing; to me is merely seems arbitrary and random.

"Good Men, Good Women" is far more multi-layered and ambitious than a purely present-day musing like "Millennium Mambo" (despite the latter's tacked-on comment that the voice-over occurs ten years later). But the randomness of the splicings makes the implied relationship questionable, even frivolous. Hou may be better off separating his historical treatments from his modern ones, as he does quite simply with three segments in his recent "Three Times."


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