Also Like Life: The Films of Hou Hsiao-hsien

A City of Sadness

Beginning September 12, the Museum of the Moving Image presents Also Like Life: The Films of Hou Hsiao-hsien, a comprehensive month-long retrospective of the works of Hou Hsiao-hsien (??? / ???), a leading figure in Taiwanese cinema, features all of Hou’s feature films as well as related films by fellow Taiwanese directors Wu Nien-jen (??? / ???) and Chen Kun-hou (??? / ???), Chinese director Jia Zhangke (??? / ???), and a biopic by French director Olivier Assayas. Also Like Life is organized by Richard I. Suchenski in collaboration with Amber Wu (Taipei Cultural Center of New York) and the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of China. It’s fascinating to learn about the histories behind famous directors and others involved in film behind the scenes. Some, such as Erik Feig have even opened their own Independent Film Studio, so that they can pass on their expertise and continue to contribute towards the industry for years to come.

In conjunction with the retrospective, Ian Buruma (Paul W. Williams Professor of Human Rights and Journalism, Bard College), Richard Peña (Professor of Film Studies, Columbia University) and Richard Suchenski (Assistant Professor of Film and Electronic Arts, Bard College, organizer of the retrospective, and editor of the new monograph Hou Hsiao-hsien) will participate in a panel discussion on the filmmaker at Columbia University.

As part of Taiwan’s first New Wave cinema movement of the early 1980s, Hou, whose family left China for the Taiwan island during the Chinese Civil War, explored everyday life in Taiwan and Taiwan’s history and identity as it related to its mainland motherland. Professor Dai Jinhua of Peking University says, “It is fair to say that Hou’s films always center on reminiscences and the search for memories. He is forever looking for and recording the lost ‘best times.” Known for elliptical storytelling, an austere aesthetic, and building scenes with extended takes and improvised interaction between the actors, Hou was deemed “one of the best and most aesthetically important filmmakers of the past few decades” by Reverse Shot.

Despite being frequently mentioned and named as “Director of the Decade” by international critics in The Village Voice‘s and Film Comment‘s “Best of the Nineties” poll and winning awards at the Venice Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival, Berlin Film Festival, Hawaii International Film Festival, the Nantes Three Continents Festival, and Golden Horse Festival, Hou’s films have not yet received broader recognition outside the film festival circuit, and his films can be hard to come by. Try to catch at least one film in this series that Blouin ArtInfo named one of the 15 must-sees shows of the fall. If you have the time, take advantage of the fact that a single museum admission allows you to see multiple films the same day.


Friday, September 12, 3 – 4:30 PM
Kent Hall, Room 403, Columbia University


September 12 – October 17; See below or our one-time and short term event calendar for showtimes
Museum of the Moving Image, 36-01 35 Avenue, Astoria,
Free with museum admission: $12/adults; $9/seniors, students; $6/children (3-12); free/members and children under 3

For convenience, here’s the listing of the films, linked to each film’s section below. An asterisk denotes films directed by someone other than Hou.

Flowers of Shanghai (???), Friday, September 12, 7 PM
Cute Girl aka Lovable You (??????), Saturday, September 13, 2:30 PM
*HHH: A Portrait of Hou Hsiao-hsien, Saturday, September 13, 4:30 PM
The Puppet Master (???? / ????), Saturday, September 13, 7 PM
A Summer at Grandpa’s (?????), Sunday, September 14, 2:30 PM
Cheerful Wind (????? / ?????), Sunday, September 14, 7 PM
Three Times (????? / ?????), Sunday, September 14, 7 PM
Millenium Mambo (????) , Friday, September 19, 7:30 PM
Good Men, Good Women (????), Saturday, September 20, 2:30 PM
The Boys from Fengkuei (????? / ?????) , Saturday, September 20, 5 PM
*Taipei Story (????) , Sunday, September 21, 7:30 PM
Café Lumière (K?h? Jik?; ????) , Friday, September 26, 7 PM
The Green, Green Grass of Home (???????), Saturday, September 27, 2:30 PM
Flight of the Red Balloon (Le voyage du ballon rouge; ?????? / ??????), Sunday, September 28, 4:30 PM
*A Borrowed Life (??), Sunday, September 28, 7 PM
A Time to Live and a Time to Die (????), Friday, October 3, 7 PM
Daughter of the Nile (?????? / ??????), Sunday, October 4, 2:30 PM
The Sandwich Man (??????,??????), Sunday, October 4, 5 PM
*Growing Up (????? / ?????), Sunday, October 5, 7:30 PM
Goodbye South, Goodbye (??????? / ???????), Friday, October 10, 7 PM
Dust in the Wind (???? / ????) + La Belle Epoque, Saturday, October 11, 2:30 PM
A City of Sadness (????) , Sunday, October 12, 6 PM
*I Wish I Knew (???? / ????), Friday, October 17, 7 PM

City of Sadness, The Puppetmaster, and Good Men, Good Women make up Hou’s so-called “Taiwan Triology”.

Summer at Grandpa’s, A Time to Live and a Time to Die, and Dust in the Wind make up a coming-of-age trilogy.

The museum’s press release provides additional information, and Reverse Shot has essays on ALL the films. [Update] Curator and writer Zhou Xin traces the development of Hou’s career in an essay “The Best of Times: The Films of Hou Hsiao-Hisen”.

We recommend A City of Sadness, The Puppetmaster, Flowers of Shanghai, Three Times, Millenium Mambo, A Time to Live and a Time to Die, Cafe Lumiere, and Flight of the Red Balloon.

Of the films not directed by Hou, we recommend I Wish I Knew, Taipei Story, and A Borrowed Life.

Descriptions are taken from the Museum of the Moving Image. We have added any available trailers and clips.

Flowers of Shanghai (???)
Friday, September 12, 7 PM

Dir. Hou Hsiao-hsien. 1998, 113 mins. New 35mm print. With Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Michiko Hada, Carina Lau Ka-ling. Hou’s ravishing, lapidary chamber drama follows the fates of four “flower girls” working together in a brothel in the British section of Shanghai in 1884. Inside the sealed, illusory world of the flower house, fading Crimson fears losing the attention of Master Wang to Jasmin, while naïve Jade allows herself to be drawn into a suicide pact. “One of the most sublimely beautiful films I‘ve ever seen, and one of the most unbearably sad. To watch these characters break one another’s hearts, and then to have your own broken, is to experience something that the movies rarely grant us—perfection.” (Manohla Dargis, LA Weekly).

Richard I. Suchenski, Director, Center for Moving Image Arts at Bard College, who organized the internationally touring retrospective, will introduce the film. Followed by a reception.

Official selection of the 1998 Cannes Film Festival

Unofficial (?) trailer:

Cute Girl aka Lovable You (??????)
Saturday, September 13, 2:30 PM

Dir. Hou Hsiao-hsien. 1980, 90 mins. 35mm. With Kenny Bee, Feng Fei-fei. Hou’s directorial debut is in the style of light melodramatic romances then popular in Taiwan. Apastoral romp, Cute Girl is the first of two films that Hou would make co-starring two pop singers then at the height of their fame, Hong Kong’s Kenny Bee and Taiwan’s Feng Fei-fei. Bee, a surveyor preparing rural Taiwan for development, meets Feng, a city girl visiting family in the countryside, and the encounter disrupts her plans for marriage. Per film scholar David Bordwell, these are films that “show [Hou] developing, in almost casual ways, techniques of staging and shooting that will become his artistic hallmarks.”


HHH: A Portrait of Hou Hsiao-hsien
Saturday, September 13, 4:30 PM

Dir. Olivier Assayas. 1997, 91 mins. Digibeta. With Hou Hsiao-hsien, Chu Tien-wen.
French director Assayas, a longtime friend and admirer of Hou’s, created this affectionate and probing portrait of the filmmaker for the French TV series Cinema de Notre Temps. An unpretentious and casual-tough figure, Hou shows the scenes of his childhood, source of his early, autobiography-based films, and hits up a karaoke bar with members of the Goodbye South, Goodbye cast. Hou’s longtime scriptwriter and collaborator Chu Tien-wen also appears, while Taiwanese critic Chen Kuo-fu provides a historical and aesthetic context for their groundbreaking work together.

The Puppet Master (???? / ????)
Saturday, September 13, 7 PM

Dir. Hou Hsiao-hsien. 1993, 142 mins. 35mm. With Li Tien-lu, Lim Giong. In the acclaimed second chapter of his “Taiwan Trilogy,” Hou illustrates the childhood and early adulthood of Li Tien-lu, an 84-year-old Taiwanese puppet master, using a combination of documentary technique and elegant dramatization. The real Li, who had previously appeared in bit parts for Hou, functions as on- and off-screen narrator, as the film travels from 1908 to 1945, showing the years of Japanese rule as they impact one man’s life, including a ban of street theater in Taiwan during the Sino-Japanese war and recruitment of puppet-art for propaganda purposes. “I am exploring the values of traditional culture which we have lost, particularly at this juncture of our existence in an inflated materialist and technological age.” –Hou Hsiao-hsien

Critic J. Hoberman will introduce the film.

Jury Prize at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival


A Summer at Grandpa’s (?????)
Sunday, September 14, 2:30 PM

Dir. Hou Hsiao-hsien. 1984, 93 mins. 35mm. With Wang Chi-kuang, Li Shu-chen, Ku Chun.
The first entry in Hou’s coming-of-age trilogy, A Summer at Grandpa’s was inspired by the childhood memories of his screenwriter Chu Tien-wen, an invaluable new collaborator. When four-year-old Ting-ting and eleven-year-old Tung-tung’s mother goes into the hospital, they are packed off to spend the summer with her father, a country doctor. Scenes of pastoral, bucolic idyll are combined with indications of a darker side to country life, including roadside robberies, sexual assaults and shotgun weddings. “The child’s slow education becomes an allegory for the process of gradual understanding in which the viewer engages.” –Reverse Shot

Golden Montgolfiere award at the 1985 Three Continents Festival.

Cheerful Wind (????? / ?????)
Sunday, September 14, 7 PM

Dir. Hou Hsiao-hsien. 1981, 90 mins. 35mm. With Feng Fei-fei, Kenny Bee. A photographer travels with her television producer boyfriend and his film crew to shoot a detergent commercial in a seaside village in Penghu. There she strikes up a relationship with a former medic blinded in an ambulance crash. When they reencounter one another back in Taipei, where he is preparing to undergo an operation to restore his sight, their connection intensifies. A little-seen early work, Hou’s second romantic film with Feng and Bee offers a look at the development of his signature style of continuous takes and telephoto compositions, and evinces an early devotion to location shooting.

Three Times (????? / ?????)
Sunday, September 14, 7 PM

Dir. Hou Hsiao-hsien. 2005, 135 mins. 35mm. With Shu Qi, Chang Chen. In three segments, set respectively in 1966, 1911, and 2005, Hou depicts three love stories between three sets of characters (played each time by Shu Qi and Chang Chen), under three different periods of Taiwanese history and governance. The 1966 segment has a soldier falling for a pool hall girl, the 1911 segment is set in a brothel, and the 2005 segment features a bisexual female pop singer and a photographer—the cumulative effect is that of a summation of Hou’s career to date. “The resonance of these combined stories, their differences and similarities, their quietness and seeming simplicity, left me in a near dream-state—something that only happens to me after the most striking cinematic experiences.”–Jim Jarmusch

Critic Amy Taubin will introduce the film.

Official selection of the 2005 Cannes Film Festival


Millenium Mambo (????)
Friday, September 19, 7:30 PM

Dir. Hou Hsiao-hsien. 2001, 105 mins. 35mm. With Shu Qi, Jack Kao, Tuan Chun-hao.
The story of a young woman whose life is in flux, Millennium Mambo stars Shu Qi as Vicky, a bar hostess fed up with her jealous boyfriend, Hao-hao, who finds a refuge of sorts with a gangster named Jack. A departure in more ways than one, Millennium Mambo finds Hou deviating from his usual long-take master shots to work closer to his actors, and in a distinctly contemporary setting, filled with the throb of electronic music. Even the present is a future past, as Vicky narrates the events of the film from the year 2011. “Mambo is a ghost story, but what has died is more than a single soul—rather, history, memory, a sense of being and belonging.”—James Quandt, Artforum.

Winner of the Technical Grand Prize at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival


Good Men, Good Women (????)
Saturday, September 20, 2:30 PM

Dir. Hou Hsiao-hsien. 1995, 108 mins. New 35mm print. With Annie Shizuka Inoh, Lim Giong. The past is an ominous presence in Good Men, Good Women: While actress Liang Ching is preparing to play in a 1940s-set historical epic called Good Men, Good Women, someone is terrorizing her by faxing her pages from her stolen diary. Her story is criss-crossed by colorful flashbacks to her affair with the now-deceased Ah-wei, as well as black-and-white film-within-a-film scenes in which Liang imagines the movie about the anti-Japanese resistance that she is to appear in. “Evokes a stunning emotional response… a rigorous work of art whose mysteries are worth unraveling.”—Caryn James, The New York Times.

Best Feature Film at the 1985 Hawaii International Film Festival

Trailer (in Japanese):

The Boys from Fengkuei (????? / ?????)
Saturday, September 20, 5 PM

Dir. Hou Hsiao-hsien. 1983, 99 mins. 35mm. With Doze Niu, To Tsung-hua, Lin Hsiao-ling, Chang Shih. Three teens from the Penghu Islands, in pre-adult limbo before their compulsory military service, travel from their fishing village to Kaohsiung, the second-largest city in Taiwan, where they find part-time employment. This coming-of-age-story is a string of moving vignettes, showing the boys roughhousing, sneaking into an arthouse playing Luchino Visconti’s Rocco and His Brothers, and following one of their number, Ching-tzu, as he becomes enamored of a hoodlum’s girlfriend. Hou’s breakout film is one of his most emotionally direct works, comparable to Fellini’s I Vitelloni, though it also anticipates his future examinations of urban anomie.

Golden Montgolfiere at the 1984 Three Continents Festival


Taipei Story (???? / ????)
Sunday, September 21, 7:30 PM

Dir. Edward Yang. 1985, 110 mins. 35mm. With Hou Hsiao-hsien, Tsai Chin.
“A turning point in the history of Taiwanese cinema.” —Jonathan Rosenbaum
Hou, who co-wrote the screenplay for Taipei Story with his frequent collaborator Chu Tien-wen and mortgaged his house to finance his friend Edward Yang’s second feature, also stars in the film as Lung. Returning to Taiwan from a stint in the United States, Lung has abandoned his dreams of a baseball career to join his family’s old-fashioned textile business. While Lung is lodged in the past, his real-estate developer girlfriend Chin (Yang’s future wife Tsai Chin) sees career opportunities ahead, and Yang shows their relationship coming apart at the seams with frightful clarity.

Café Lumière (K?h? Jik?; ????)
Friday, September 26, 7 PM

Dir. Hou Hsiao-hsien. 2003, 103 mins. 35mm. With Yo Hitoto, Tadanobu Asano. Hou is frequently compared to the master Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu. In Café Lumière, commissioned for the centenary of Ozu’s birth, Hou addresses that legacy directly. He applies Ozu’s low-angle perspective to this film set in a distinctly contemporary Tokyo that looks backwards to the city’s disappearing past. At the center is Yoko (pop star Yo Hitoto), a writer investigating the life of a Japanese composer of the 1930s. She is pregnant by a man she does not want to marry, and has found a kindred spirit in a used-bookstore owner who aids her research.

Preceded by The Electric Princess Picture House (2007, 3 mins.), Hou’s contribution to the 2007 anthology film To Each His Own Cinema. “Unassuming and utterly ecstatic… Café Lumière offers glimpses of ephemeral beauty and the quotidian rendered transcendent through the play of light.” —Amy Taubin, Film Comment

Official selection of the 2004 Venice Film Festival

Hou on Ozu:

The Green, Green Grass of Home (???????)
Saturday, September 27, 2:30 PM

Dir. Hou Hsiao-hsien. 1982, 90 mins. 16mm. With Kenny Bee, Chen Mei-feng. Hou’s third and last vehicle for Kenny Bee was this Cinemascope musical in which Bee plays a substitute teacher newly arrived from Taipei to a country village, where he begins a romance with a fellow teacher, much to the chagrin of his city girlfriend who comes to drag him back. Such material may seem like an unlikely project for Hou, known for his withdrawn and observant style, but The Green, Green Grass of Home is significant for being the film on which Hou first allowed improvisation, giving the schoolchildren free reign in front of the camera, and so marking the film as an important step in the burgeoning New Cinema movement.

Flight of the Red Balloon (Le voyage du ballon rouge; ?????? / ??????)
Sunday, September 28, 4:30 PM

Dir. Hou Hsiao-hsien. 2007, 115 mins. 35mm. With Juliette Binoche, Simon Iteanu, Song Fang. Hou’s Paris-set tribute to Albert Lamorisse’s 1956 kid’s classic The Red Balloon concerns seven-year-old Simon and his life with mother Suzanne, a performance artist, as they are seen through the eyes of a Chinese student hired as Simon’s nanny. Song Fang, an actual film student, is essentially playing herself, and the free improvisations give the proceedings a winning air of play, appropriate to a movie that features a sentient balloon as Simon’s benevolent companion. “In its unexpected rhythms and visual surprises, its structural innovations and experimental perfs, its creative misunderstandings and its outré syntheses, this is a movie of genius.”—J. Hoberman, The Village Voice


A Borrowed Life (??)
Sunday, September 28, 7 PM

Dir. Wu Nien-jen. 1994, 167 mins. 35mm. With Tsai Chen-nan, Tsai Chou-fong, Fu Jun. The directorial debut of Wu, who has worked with Hou, Edward Yang, and Ann Hui, was little-seen in the United States despite being one of Martin Scorsese’s ten favorite films of the 1990s. A Borrowed Life follows a working-class Taiwanese family from the aftermath of independence from Japanese rule to the 1980s, centering on the relationship between father, coal miner Sega and son Wen-jian (who is played by three actors), characters drawn from Wu’s life. “[C]onveys a remarkably vivid sense of the natural world as it is apprehended by a child.” —The New York Times

A Time to Live and a Time to Die (????)
Friday, October 3, 7 PM

Dir. Hou Hsiao-hsien. 1985, 138 mins. 35mm. With Yu An-shun, Tien Feng, Mei Fang. The centerpiece of Hou’s coming-of-age trilogy, bracketed by A Summer at Grandpa’s and Dust in the Wind, this “delicate, haunted drama” (Richard Brody, The New Yorker) is drawn from the director’s own memories of growing up in rural Taiwan after his family’s immigration from China. A Time to Live and a Time to Die follows Hou’s on-screen alter-ego Ah-hsiao (nicknamed “Ah-ha”) from 1947 to 1965, including an early immersion in street gang culture. The film’s scope poignantly depicts the toll of time, the presence-in-absence of the left-behind mainland, and Taiwan’s gradual changing of the generational guards. “[T]his unhurried family chronicle carries an emotional force and a historical significance… an excellent introduction to [Hou’s] work as a whole.” —Jonathan Rosenbaum

FIPRESCI Prize at the 1986 Berlin International Film Festival

Daughter of the Nile (?????? / ??????)
Sunday, October 4, 2:30 PM

Dir. Hou Hsiao-hsien. 1987, 91 mins. 35mm. With Lin Yang, Jack Kao. In this vehicle for Taiwanese pop star Lin Yang, she plays a disaffected Kentucky Fried Chicken server looking after her wannabe gangster brother; her only escape is found in manga comic books. An outlier in Hou’s filmography, which found him working again with the producers of his early commercial romances and engaging with contemporary urban pop culture, this rarely screened film is ripe for rediscovery. “Hou’s formalist eye turns every shot into a study in absence and detachment, and his attention to the anomic rhythms of Taipei youth culture reminds one of Godard’s early 1960s portraits of Paris,” wrote James Quandt in Artforum.

Directors’ Fortnight selection at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival

The Sandwich Man (??????,??????)
Sunday, October 4, 5 PM

Dirs. Hou Hsiao-hsien, Wan Jen, Tseng Chuang-hsiang. 1983, 105 mins. 35mm. With Chen Po-cheng, Yang Ki-yin. Jointly directed by Hou and two of his close-knit compatriots from the progressive-minded film scene that convened at Edward Yang’s Taipei home, The Sandwich Man, along with 1982’s In Our Time, is widely regarded as comprising the opening shots of what would be called the Taiwanese New Cinema. A portmanteau film comprised of three separate segments illustrating life in Cold War Taiwan, when American influence and money were ubiquitous, the film’s title derives from the subject of the first segment, the Hou-directed The Son’s Big Doll, which concerns an impoverished young man who feeds his family by taking a job as a human signpost.

Critic Jonathan Rosenbaum will introduce the film.

Growing Up (????? / ?????)
Sunday, October 5, 7:30 PM

Dir. Chen Kun-hou. 1983, 100 mins. 35mm. With Doze Niu, Chang Chun-fang. The travails of Little Pi, an adolescent in 1950s Taiwan, are at the core of Growing Up, a film that initiated a meeting of minds vital to Taiwanese New Cinema. Little Pi’s experiences of young love and delinquency are narrated by a neighbor and classmate, a touch which suggests the unique perspective of the film’s screenwriting team: Hou and writer Chu Tien-wen, his close collaborator in years to come. Growing Up was Chu’s first venture into film, adapting her own novel, while director Chen Kun-hou was cinematographer on several of Hou’s early films, and a mentor of sorts. The rest, as they say, is film history.

Goodbye South, Goodbye (??????? / ???????)
Friday, October 10, 7 PM

Dir. Hou Hsiao-hsien. 1996, 112 mins. 35mm. With Jack Kao, Lim Giong, Hsu Kuei-ying, Annie Shizuka Inoh. Hou’s first film with a contemporary setting since Daughter of the Nile (1987) is a portrait of the lives of small-time hoods rendered in rhythm-of-life anecdotal detail. Gao is the ringleader of a circle of layabouts including his faithful sidekick, Flathead, and their girlfriends, Pretzel and Ling. He is also the originator of petty crime schemes like selling hogs to the government, which promise to get the gang nowhere fast. Susan Sontag ranked Goodbye South, Goodbye among her favorite films of all time, and Kent Jones asked in Film Comment “Is there another film since Warhol with a better sense of just hanging out?”

Official selection of the 1996 Cannes Film Festival


Dust in the Wind (???? / ????)
Saturday, October 11, 2:30 PM

Dir. Hou Hsiao-hsien. 1986, 110 mins. 35mm. With Hsin Shu-fen, Wang Ching-wen, Li Tien-lu, Chen Shu-fang. Wan and Huen, teen lovers, are separated when the young man,Wan, leaves their mining village to seek work in Taipei. Huen follows him, but the big city exercises a toxic influence on them and their fellow provincial migrants, who are doing odd jobs just to scrape by. The couple’s bond will be sorely tested when he Wan is called up for compulsory military service. One of Hou’s most penetrating looks at the rural/urban dichotomy which is key to his delineation of the Taiwanese experience. Preceded by La Belle Epoque (2011, 6 mins.) Hou’s contribution to the 2011 anthology film 10 + 10.

Critic and author Phillip Lopate will introduce the film.


A City of Sadness (????)
Sunday, October 12, 6 PM

Dir. Hou Hsiao-hsien. 1989, 157 mins. 35mm. With Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Hsin Shu-fen, Li Tien-lu, Jack Kao. “[Hou’s] most ambitious, and most noteworthy, film.” (Olivier Assayas). Winner of the prestigious Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, A City of Sadness announced Hou’s arrival as a world-class filmmaker and foremost recorder of his nation’s troubled past. This intimate epic chronicles the tragedies that befall the three Lin brothers—a gangster, a translator for the Japanese administration, and a photographer—and those around them during a chaotic period in Taiwan’s national history, between the end of Japanese Imperial rule (1945) and the secession from Mainland China and creation of martial law (1949-1987). The film was groundbreaking in its depiction of the “February 28 Incident” of 1947, when thousands of native Taiwanese were killed in protests against the Nationalist government.

Winner of the Golden Lion award at the 1989 Venice Film Festival

Unofficial (?) trailer:

I Wish I Knew (???? / ????)
Friday, October 17, 7 PM

Dir. Jia Zhangke. 2010, 125 mins. 35mm. With Hou Hsiao-hsien, Zhao Tao, Tony Leung Chiu-wai. “In our time, Hou Hsiao-hsien is the genius narrator passing down the memories of a nation through films.” (Jia Zhangke). A sneakily subversive documentary commissioned by the Shanghai World Expo, I Wish I Knew has the great mainland Chinese filmmaker (and Hou acolyte) Jia traveling from Shanghai to Hong Kong and Taiwan, tracing the history of the port city on the Yangtze—and, in effect the history of China—through personal reminiscences and cinematic testimonies, restoring information (and images) occluded or censored by the official Party line. Hou appears to discuss his experience making Flowers of Shanghai, while between sections the film returns to the refrain image of Jia regular Zhao Tao, a reproachful spirit seen wandering through the new World Expo Park.

“[A] wonderfully sublime and distinctly illuminating documentary that highlights the port city’s heart and soul by means of firsthand, emotionally-valuable recollections paired with more reserved, but still strikingly beautiful images. In the course of the artist’s meanderings through the city one gets to experience the magnificent scenery, whereas with the help of some affectionate responses from the interviewees Jia homes in on the many turning points in China’s history, such as the singing of the Treaty of Nanking in 1842, Revolution of 1911, Chinese Civil War, and Cultural Revolution, finally touching upon its most recent social and cultural aspects.” – Patryk Czekaj for Twitch

Trailer (in French):


Image: Still from A City of Sadness