THE PAST IS A FOREIGN COUNTRY: THE CINEMA OF HOU HSIAO-HSIEN

November 2, 2016

2–16 NOVEMBER
hou-dust-in-the-wind

THE PAST IS A FOREIGN COUNTRY: THE CINEMA OF HOU HSIAO-HSIEN

2–16 NOVEMBER

“Reality provides a model and the more you understand it, the clearer your film will be.” – Hou Hsiao-Hsien

Commencing on Wednesday 2nd of November, the Melbourne Cinémathèque is proud to present The Past Is a Foreign Country: The Cinema of Hou Hsiao-Hsien, a season which brings together six films spanning the entirety of Hou’s career, covering both the explicitly political and deeply personal realms of his work.

Though he began his directorial career with the likes of populist Taiwanese works such as Cute Girl (1980) and Cheerful Wind (1981), Hou Hsiao-Hsien has since forged a career as one of the most distinctive voices in Taiwanese cinema, crafting an ouevre which examines both the tumultuous beginnings of modern Taiwanese society (A City of Sadness (1989)) and the passing of youth in the face of urbanisation (The Boys From Fengkuei (1983) and Millennium Mambo (2001)).

The season commences with Hou’s masterwork, A City of Sadness. His most commercially successful film in Taiwan, A City of Sadness is a complex, panoramic and politically bold family saga. Set at the time of the formation of modern Taiwan, A City of Sadness was the first film to openly deal with “white terror” unleashed by the Kuomintang government in the late 1940s. Followed by The Assassin (2015), Hou’s meditative and meticulously choreographed wuxia based on a famous story by Pei Xing, starring Hou’s muse Shu Qi.

The season continues with A Time to Live, A Time to Die (1985), a resonant and moving account of two periods in the 20th-century Taiwanese history as seen through the eyes of a boy whose family has recently emigrated from Mainland China. Followed by Dust in the Wind (1987), which details the bittersweet fate of a young couple who move from a remote mining town to Taipei.

The season concludes with Three Times (2005), Hou’s complex and sensuous romantic saga which emphasizes repetition and timelessness while contrasting the manners and sexual mores of three different periods: 1966, 1911 and 2005. Starring Cheng Chen (The Assassin) and Shu Qi (Millenium Mambo and The Assassin). Followed by Flight of the Red Balloon (2007). Hou’s first film shot outside Asia, typically profound and measured expansion of Albert Lamorisse’s iconic and much-loved 1956 short, The Red Balloon. Stars Juliette Binoche.
The Past Is a Foreign Country: The Cinema of Hou Hsiao-Hsien

2–16 November, 2016

Melbourne Cinémathèque

Venue: Australia Centre for the Moving Image, Federation Square

http://www.melbournecinematheque.org/category/present-year/the-past-is-a-foreign-country-the-cinema-of-hou-hsiao-hsien/

 

About the Melbourne Cinémathèque:

The Melbourne Cinémathèque is a not-for-profit, volunteer run film society dedicated to importing and screening significant films from the history of international cinema, in their original format. It holds screenings at the Australia Centre for the Moving Image every Wednesday night for most of the year.

 

The Melbourne Cinémathèque started out as the Melbourne University Film Society in 1948. It changed its name in 1984 to reflect the Cinémathèque’s broadened activities and ambitions. Today, the Melbourne Cinémathèque programs a diverse selection of classic and contemporary films showcasing director retrospectives, special guest appearances and thematic series including archival material and new or restored prints.

 

The Melbourne Cinémathèque is supported by Screen Australia and Film Victoria.

Major sponsors: Sirena Tuna, 3RRR, Present Company Included, Stellar Dental.

 

2–16 NOVEMBER

THE PAST IS A FOREIGN COUNTRY: THE CINEMA OF HOU HSIAO-HSIEN

 

Hou Hsiao-Hsien (1947-) is one of the key figures of contemporary cinema, a widely acclaimed and awarded filmmaker who has producer intimate, epic, historical, domestic, international and supremely local works of exquisite beauty and formal rigour for over 30 years.

Hou’s cinema is often concerned with his experiences growing up in rural Taiwan in the 1950s and 1960s, a time which saw the settlement of refugee families from the Mainland, severe social and political controls and the beginnings of the most significant social changes in modern Taiwanese history (the economic boom that led to widespread Westernisation and urbanization). Hou’s films are intimate expressions of these tumultuous times and experiences, as well as profound mediations on history, identity, growing up and the materiality of everyday life. Hou’s emotionally charged work is replete with highly nostalgic and bittersweet images, their power lying in his cinema’s total immersion in the past and its sympathies for the fate of families and individuals who suffered during difficult times. In a poetic yet relaxed style, Hou’s films reflect a deep sympathy, everyday materiality and profound humanism not unlike the work of Yasujiro Ozu (an avowed influence).

This season brings together a number of Hou’s greatest films to explore the key trends in his work from the exquisite memory works of 19th-century China and mid-2oth-century Taiwan (A Time to Live, A Time to Die and Dust in the Wind) to his epic but intimate account of the aftermath of the formation of modern Taiwan (his masterwork, A City of Sadness) and the series of mature works that fully demonstrate his place as a modern master (Three Times, Flight of the Red Balloon, The Assassin).

 

2 November

7:00pm

A CITY OF SADNESS

Hou Hsiao-Hsien (1989) M

157 mins

Hou’s most commercially successful film in Taiwan is a complex, panoramic and politically bold family saga beautifully shot by Chen Huai-en. Set at the time of the formation of modern Taiwan, between the end of WWII and Nationalist China’s fall to the communists in 1949, it is the director’s most ambitious, devastating and expansive film. The remarkable dramatic thrust of Hou’s film lies in its constant evocation of transience and the precariousness of its characters’ lives, as well as its status as the first movie to openly deal with the “white terror” unleashed by the Kuomintang government in the late 1940s. Stars Tony Chiu Wai Leung and Jack Kao.

35mm print courtesy of the National Film and Sound Archive, Australia.

 

9:45pm

THE ASSASSIN

Hou Hsiao-Hsien (2015) PG

107 mins

Hou’s most recent film is a widely celebrated wuxia based on a famous story by Pei Xing about a looming, seemingly inevitable outbreak of violence predestined by the forces of history and ancestry. Hou applies his meditative and meticulously choreographed “slow cinema” style to the traditionally energetic, action-oriented genre in order to canvas an array of politically resonant tensions between what is visible and obscured, flatness and depth, isolation and population, myth and reality, intrigue and action (or inaction). With Shu Qi and Chang Chen.

 

9 November
7:00pm

A TIME TO LIVE, A TIME TO DIE

Hou Hsiao-Hsien (1985) PG

138 mins

A resonant and moving account of two periods in the 20th-century Taiwanese history as seen through the eyes of a boy whose family has recently emigrated from Mainland China. Shot with extraordinary delicacy by Mark Lee Ping Bin, Hou’s autobiographical masterpiece is a brilliantly simple but multi-faceted portrait of loss and the complacency of childhood. FIPRESCI Prize winner at the Berlin Film Festival; Tony Rayns called it “One of cinema’s classic visions of childhood and adolescence”. Co-written by Hou’s regular collaborator Chu T’ien-wen.

35mm print courtesy of the National Film and Sound Archive, Australia.

 

9:30pm

DUST IN THE WIND

Hou Hsiao-Hsien (1987) PG

109 mins

Hou’s eighth film, detailing the bittersweet fate of a young couple who move from a remote mining town to Taipei, was the aesthetic culmination of the director’s early filmmaking career. It crystallised for the first time his signature style, in which seemingly small moments and detail provide signs of major narrative developments. It also continued the screenwriting collaboration between Chu T’ien-wen and Wu Nien-jen, whose own background story the script is based on. The film features significant contributions from regular Hou collaborations cinematographer Mark Lee Ping Bin and Li Tian-lu as Grandpa.

35mm print courtesy of the National Film and Sound Archive, Australia.

 

16 November

 

7:00pm

THREE TIMES

Hou Hsiao-Hsien (2005) PG

120 mins

Recognised on its arrival as a new pinnacle in Hou’s work, this masterful film uses a tripartite structure to explore the relationship between young men and women across three periods: 1966, 1911 and 2005. The three couples are played by the same actors, art-house drawcard Cheng Chen (Happy Together and The Assassin) and Shu Qi (Millennium Mambo and The Assassin). Hou’s complex, sensuous minimalism emphasizes repetition and timelessness, on one hand, while contrasting the manners and sexual mores of different periods, on the other.

 

9:10pm

FLIGHT OF THE RED BALLOON

Hou Hsiao-Hsien (2007) PG

115 mins

Hou’s first film shot outside Asia is a typically profound and measured expansion of Albert Lamorisse’s iconic and much-loved 1956 short, The Red Balloon. A mood of sublime restraint is created through exquisite technique, as textures, texts and cultures double upon each other in a paradoxically opaque clarity. Juliette Binoche as the mother of the balloon-pursuer is in career-best form, alongside Fang Song as the film student babysitter. “In its unexpected rhythms and visual surprises… its creative misunderstandings and its outré syntheses, this is a movie of genius” (J. Hoberman).

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