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,
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 »
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 »
When a young street vendor with a grim home life meets a woman on her way to Paris, they forge an instant connection. He changes all the clocks in Taipei to French time; as he watches ... See full summary »
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 »
(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
Hou confirms his standing as probably the most masterly film maker currently at work anywhere
Three Times shows Hou Hsiao-Hsien developing further the themes of his two dazzling earlier works Flowers of Shanghai and Millennium Mambo.
It consists of three tales of love and its vicissitudes: A Time for Love, set in 1966, A Time for Freedom set in 1911, and A Time for Youth, set in the present.
As with all great art, everything lies in the style, the tempo, pacing, control of light, the compositions and framing, the control of tone, the nuances of facial expressions and bodily poses and movements, and the way all these amplify and develop the subject.
The incidents depicted are spare and in the case of the first tale almost non existent. Yet through his technique Hou right from the outset creates a mesmerizing, hypnotic, almost overwhelming spell.
This is film making on the grand scale,reminiscent of the great sixties film makers, but almost never seen these days. One wants to invoke the opulence of a Visconti , the deceptively involved and passionate realism of a Godard, the precise formulations of Eric Rohmer and Michelangelo Antonioni.
Beyond film other comparisons come to mind: Raymond Carver's supreme control of tone in elevating the barest of incidents to the stuff of high drama is perfectly matched by Hu, particularly in the first of his tales. The radiant, almost contemplative or prayer-like presentation of the women in all three tales simply reading letters or E-Mails reminds one of nothing so much as Vermeer.
In each part the style perfectly matches the themes - restraint (whether tentative and hesitant, or formalized and implacable) in the first two, and gorgeous excess in the last.
And in each section there is a succession of moments so beautiful, so "right" and so new, one really wants to shout it from the rooftops.
Whilst Three Times perhaps lacks the cumulative dramatic power of the two earlier films, it shares with them the exhilaration one gets from knowing one is viewing a great artist at the peak of his powers, the sense that he can literally do anything he wants, that no subject is beyond him.
If you haven't seen these films do yourself a favor and seek them out - they are quite possibly among the most important art of our time.
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