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 »
Taipei. A voice off-camera looks back ten years to 2000, when Vicky was in an on-again off-again relationship with Hao-Hao. She's young, lovely, and aimless. He's a slacker. Cigarettes and ... See full summary »
In the first half of this century, young Li Tienlu joines a travelling puppet theatre and subsequently makes a career as one of Taiwan's leading puppeteers. During World War II the Japanese... See full summary »
In Shanghai in the 1880s there are four elegant brothels (flower houses): each has an auntie (called madam), a courtesan in her prime, older servants, and maturing girls in training. The ... See full summary »
Tony Chiu-Wai Leung,
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 ... See full summary »
Ah-Ching and his friends have just finished school in their island fishing village, and now spend most of their time drinking and fighting. Three of them decide to go to the port city of ... See full summary »
Not a satisfactory Ozu homage, but Hou is always stylish
A girl who is pregnant is visited by her parents and may not know who the father is. Her main friend works in a bookstore and records train sounds as a hobby. For this viewer, "Café Lumière," which had been long anticipated, was disappointing when finally seen. It didn't leave very strong impression and a week later it had almost faded from the mind. It seems to me that the resemblance to Ozu, whom this was commissioned by the producer as a sort of homage to, is superficial indeed. Ozu can make you cry. This, despite its Ozu-like structure, leaves you feeling rather blank. Perhaps this is because it's essentially about people avoiding real contact with each other.
That's not the same as being reserved. In fact it's extremely different. People who are shy and reserved, as Ozu's characters tend to be, may very often care very intensely. The impression is that these people devised for Hou's version of Japan just don't ultimately seem to feel very much. If this is how things are now in Japan, too bad; but would Hou really know? He's Chinese. He has even admitted in interviews that culturally he was a bit out of his depth in coming to Japana to make a film. Despite very assured style, the deadpan story has no pulse. This is more a perversion of than homage to the great Ozu. Another commentator has said Café Lumière "may be the film that Ozu would have made if he lived in the modern age." It may be; but I don't think so. And if it were, then it is as well that Ozu did not live in the modern age, because he would have ceased to be Ozu.
As I have said recently in another context, Hou doesn't always hit it, but when he does he flies to the moon. Hou can't make a movie without stylistic and visual elegance, and "Café Lumière," with its cool tranquility and measured pace and its delicate light, has those qualities. But he didn't make it to heaven this time. In the second part of his recent "Three Times," he did: all the way to the moon. So he can still fly, but this conscientious, measured effort plods.
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