Also Like Life: The Films of Hou Hsiao-hsien

FEBRUARY 6-9, 12-13, 21-22, 26-27
MARCH 1, 4-11

“The world’s greatest narrative filmmaker.”

“The 21st century belongs to Asia, and Hou is its historian, its prophet, and its poet laureate.”

“From The Puppetmaster to Flowers of Shanghai (masterworks both), Hou was the deepest, richest, and most daring filmmaker working anywhere.”

It is entirely apt that Hou Hsiao-hsien, a leading figure of Taiwan’s New Wave of the 1980s, and widely recognized as one of the most important filmmakers alive since the 1990s, would direct a film — 2003’s Café Lumière — in honour of the centenary of the great Japanese master Yasujiro Ozu. Hou’s work — an episodic, unhurried, contemplative, richly-observant, deeply-humanistic, visually-accomplished cinema of calm, still, elegant long takes; long and medium shots; and elliptical storytelling — often recalls Ozu’s, and is also often compared to traditional Chinese poetry and landscape painting. Hou’s subject matter, however, is intensely contemporary: the tensions and contradictions of a traditional culture caught up in the mad rush of modernity, and buffeted by the harsh geopolitical realities of its particular place in 20th-century history (Japanese militarism and imperialism; China’s Communist revolution and the establishment of a Nationalist government in Taiwan; American cultural domination).

“If Hou Hsiao-hsien hailed from the west, he would be more widely known as one of the world's foremost film-makers.” DEREK MALCOLM, THE GUARDIAN

A graduate of Taiwan’s National Academy of Arts, Hou was born on the Chinese mainland, to Hakka parents in Quangdong (formerly Canton) province, in 1947. His family, fleeing China’s civil war, relocated to Taiwan in 1948. The sometimes-tense relations between immigrant Mainlanders and native Taiwanese have frequently informed Hou’s films. Yet it is ordinary, everyday life that is Hou’s grandest theme — as it was Ozu’s. “I make films,” Hou has said, “because I love this world and I believe in people.”

“Essential viewing ... Audiences don’t get many opportunities to see Hou’s movies on the big screen.”

It has been 15 years since The Cinematheque last mounted a Hou retrospective. This new exhibition, currently touring internationally, is the most comprehensive we have ever presented. It includes all 17 features Hou has released to date — including, rarest-of-the-rare, his three earliest features, a trio of romantic comedies — as well as Hou shorts and important Hou collaborations with other filmmakers.

Acknowledgements: "Also Like Life: The Films of Hou Hsiao-hsien" is an international retrospective organized by Richard I. Suchenski (Director, Center for Moving Image Arts at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY) in collaboration with the Taipei Cultural Center, the Taiwan Film Institute, and the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of China (Taiwan). The book Hou Hsiao-hsien (Vienna: Österreichisches Filmmuseum and New York: Columbia University Press, 2014) has been released in conjunction with this retrospective.

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Recent Showings

NEW 35mm PRINT! Ravishing visuals and remarkable rigour are hallmarks of Hou’s exquisite 1998 masterpiece.
Hou's reputation as Taiwan's leading humanist director was solidified with this warm, wonderfully-observant film.
Hou’s deeply affecting semi-autobiographical film was inspired by his own experiences growing up in rural Taiwan.
Winner of the Golden Lion at Venice, this magnificent family epic is perhaps Hou's finest achievement.
Hou’s fourth feature is considered his first mature masterwork and is one of the breakthrough works of the Taiwanese New Wave.
Hou Hsiao-hsien co-wrote this central work of Taiwan’s New Wave, made by a creative team central to his own cinema.
Hou Hsiao-hsien had a major hand in friend and fellow Taiwanese master Edward Yang’s acclaimed second feature.
NEW 35mm PRINT! Hou’s multi-layered masterpiece is the third film in his remarkable trilogy of historical epics.
An ode to Japanese cine-master Yasujiro Ozu, this solemn, quietly contemplative film ranks as one of Hou's most exquisitely realized films.
Hou Hsiao-hsien made his near-invisible directorial debut with this commercially- minded, boy-meets-girl charmer.
An important anthology film that helped launch Taiwan's New Wave, The Sandwich Man includes Hou's short, "Son's Big Doll."
Small-time hoods attempt to scam their way across southern Taiwan in Hou’s first film in a decade with an entirely contemporary setting.
Winner of the Jury Prize at Cannes, this inventive work uses the memoirs of puppet master Li Tien-lu to trace an intimate history of Taiwan.
The pop-star leads from Hou's first feature are reunited in the director's follow-up, a brisk work of bubble-gum romance.
Hou's final film in the Taiwanese romantic-comedy mode is the most nuanced, fulfilling, and recognizably HHH-esque of these early works.
An undisputed masterpiece and Best-of-the-Decade staple, Three Times is Hou's breathtaking, tripartite tale of love (and love lost).
Hou entered the aughts with this atmospheric tone-poem set and shot in Taipei. Preceded by The Electric Picture House.
A neglected item in the Hou filmography is this neon-lit, pop-culture-soaked contemporary drama starring pop star Yang Lin.
Hou’s first film made outside Asia pays fond tribute to Albert Lamorisse’s 1956 children’s short. Preceded by La Belle Epoque.
A clear influence on Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbour Totoro, Hou’s gentle fifth feature is an affecting, unsentimental tale of childhood lost.