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Three Times (2005)
"Zui hao de shi guang" (original title)

6.9
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Ratings: 6.9/10 from 3,526 users   Metascore: 80/100
Reviews: 46 user | 79 critic | 22 from Metacritic.com

Three stories set in three times, 1911, 1966 and 2005. Two actors play the two main characters in each story.

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Title: Three Times (2005)

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Cast

Credited cast:
...
May / Courtesan / Jing
...
Chen / Mr. Chang / Zhen
Fang Mei ...
Old Woman
Shu-Chen Liao ...
Madam / Jing's mother
Mei Di ...
May's mother / Madam
Shi-Shan Chen ...
Haruko / Ah Mei
Lee Pei-Hsuan ...
Hostess / Micky
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Lawrence Ko ...
(special appearance) (as Ko Yu-Luen)
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Storyline

(1) "A Time for Love": In 1966, in Kaohsiung, Chen meets May playing pool in a bar when he is joining the army. He sends letters to her and he comes to the bar to meet her again in his leave. However, May had traveled to another place and Chen seeks her out. (2) "A Time for Freedom": In 1911, in Dadaochend, the writer Mr. Chang works for Mr. Liang and frequently travels to a brothel, where he meets the singer. He financially helps the courtesan Ah Mei to become a concubine. When the singer asks him if he would help her to leave the brothel, there is no answer. (3) "A Time for Youth": In 2005, in Taipei, the messy relationship of the photographer Zhen, his girlfriend Jing and a bisexual singer. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | Romance

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Details

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Release Date:

28 October 2005 (Taiwan)  »

Also Known As:

Three Times  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$14,197 (USA) (28 April 2006)

Gross:

$151,662 (USA) (4 August 2006)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs

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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The song Rain and Tears is based on Pachelbel's Canon See more »

Soundtracks

Rain and Tears
Written by Johann Pachelbel, Boris Bergman and Vangelis
Performed by Aphrodite's Child
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User Reviews

 
Flashes of Hou's brilliance
31 October 2005 | by (Vancouver, B.C.) – See all my reviews

Three Times, the latest film from Taiwanese master Hou Hsiao-hsien is a lyrical, sensuous, but disappointing collection of three love stories set in 1911, 1966, and 2005. Marvelously performed by Shu Qi (Millennium Mambo) and Chang Chen, the film is both a retrospective of Hou's earlier work, a historical study of a culture, and a cogent statement about how social limitations affect each person's ability to relate. The message, however, that social restraints and modern technology hampers our ability to connect with one another is hardly new and, though depicted via Hou's gorgeous minimalism, was not enough to allow me to become emotionally involved with the characters.

Utilizing a traditional three-act structure, the mood of the film shifts from one time period to the other but the position of the women remains significant. The first segment is set in 1966 and is titled "A Time for Love". Uncharacteristically, Hou uses pop songs as background to the episode involving a chance encounter between Chen, an on-leave soldier and May, a young woman who works at various pool halls in different Taiwanese towns. The songs, repeated throughout the segment in the style of Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai, are the Platters 1959 version of the thirties love song "Smoke Gets in your Eyes" and the 1968 hit by Aphrodite's Child "Rain and Tears". Chen becomes attracted to May after returning to visit a previous pool girl to whom he had written love letters while away in service.

Both watch each other carefully across smoky pool tables but are forced to leave and the remainder of the segment follows Chen as he attempts to track May in local pool halls across Taiwan. Though the first act contains some poetic moments of mutual attraction, it is mostly teasing in its elusiveness. May and Chen rarely speak and when they do, it is mostly about snooker. Nonetheless, Hou creates an atmosphere of tension as the lovers, perhaps like Taiwan itself at this time, must choose between remaining comfortable in their status quo or taking risks to engender more intriguing possibilities.

Set in 1911, act two, "A Time for Freedom", takes place in a concubine reminiscent of Hou's beautiful but claustrophobic Flowers of Shanghai. This 35-minute segment contains no dialogue, simply intertitles as in silent films and a tinkling piano in the background. Hou's ostensible reason for using this device is that he was unable to recreate the Taiwanese spoken language of the period. Though this is understandable, I doubt if many would have noticed and the absence of dialogue for that long a period of time comes across as an affectation. In this section, the two lovers from the first segment are now reprieved as master and concubine. The master is a political activist who writes articles promoting independence and provides financial help to a concubine pupil to allow her to achieve the status of companion.

Unfortunately, he does not address the issue his concubine is most concerned about - her own personal freedom, and he remains indifferent as she expresses her longings, again perhaps reflecting the political idea that Taiwan was not capable of independence at this time. The final chapter brings us to the modern world of freeways, cellphones, and text messaging. Named "A Time for Youth", the title of this segment is steeped in irony. No longer a subtext, the lack of communication fostered by modern technology reminds us of previous films by the director that eloquently conveyed the apathetic self-indulgence of modern Taiwanese youth, Goodbye South, Goodbye and Millennium Mambo. Unlike Goodbye South, Goodbye, which employed colored filters to highlight the garishness of modern Taipei, however, the city in the current film is now dark and foreboding.

The characters are a photographer, his girlfriend, a rock singer, and her own female lover. The singer is torn between these two lovers and I was frustrated by the intrusion of the female lover who acts as a brake on a fulfilling possibility between the two main protagonists, promised in the opening two segments. Though most likely true to the director's intentions, the final section feels artificial and cold and Three Times, while bearing flashes of Hou's brilliance, comes across as a cinematic exercise, an appealing concept that is ultimately unsatisfying.


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