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 »
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 »
Based on a true story, primarily on a conflict between two youth gangs, a 14-year-old boy's girlfriend conflicts with the head of one gang for an unclear reason, until finally the conflict comes to a violent climax.
This is the only one of Hou Hsiao-hsien's films I caught at a retrospective of his work, and it's a tragedy because this film is so incredibly good. Hou's rigorous formal approach (highly geometrical framing, repetitive shots along axes, distinctive use of lived-in colors) provides a framework for the film to operate within its own world. Whereas Coppola's "Godfather" goes this way and that, without a significant coherence, visually or rhythmically, "City of Sadness" feels like an elegy to Taiwan and the family (in much the same way that "Underground" is an ode to what was once Yugoslavia). At times funny, sorrowful, and invigorating, I suppose that what makes this film so special is that it refuses to operate in "big moments" and focuses, like Ozu (who Hou is often compared to) on the little events that make life what it really is.
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