[Press release from the Cleveland Cinematheque.]
Fourteen features by the celebrated contemporary Taiwanese filmmaker Hou Hsiao-hsien will show during May and June at the Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque and the Cleveland Museum of Art. Eight of the movies will screen between May 2 and June 19 at the Cinematheque, 11141 East Boulevard in University Circle, and six will unspool between May 6 and 27 at the art museum, 11150 East Boulevard. Together these two series comprise “Also Like Life,” a major international touring retrospective organized by Richard I. Suchenski of Bard College, in collaboration with the Taipei Cultural Center, the Taiwan Film Institute, and the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of China (Taiwan). Cleveland is the only American city between New York and the West Coast hosting the complete series.
Film critic J. Hoberman has called Hou Hsiao-hsien “not only Taiwan’s greatest film artist but, heir to Bresson and Ozu, arguably the greatest narrative filmmaker of the past several decades.” Born in 1947, Hou is a poet, formalist, and humanist whose gentle, serene movies feature mesmerizing long takes and stately rhythms. The 14 films showing in May and June can be divided into three categories: semiautobiographical memory pieces about the director’s friends and family, multifaceted examinations of Taiwan’s traumatic history, and modernist reflections on contemporary life. Though some of Hou’s movies reside in more than one camp, they are all exquisitely beautiful and demand to be seen from 35mm film, which is how they will be shown at both the Cinematheque and the art museum. Hou’s output includes some of the most revered art films of the past 30 years. Though he has not made a feature since 2007, a new movie is due later this year, so the retrospective is well timed.
Richard I. Suchenski, who organized the Hou series and tour, is director of the Center for Moving Image Arts at Bard College. He will appear in person at both venues to introduce and discuss key Hou works: THE PUPPETMASTER on Saturday, May 23, at 7:30 pm, at the Cinematheque; and A CITY OF SADNESS on Sunday, May 24, at 12:30 pm at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Due to contractual reasons, admission to both of these programs will be free of charge. Suchenski also edited a new 269-page book that accompanies the retrospective. Hou Hsiao-hsien (Vienna: Österreichisches Filmmuseum and New York: Columbia University Press, 2014) will be sold for $25 at the Cinematheque box office.
Admission to each film (aside from THE PUPPETMASTER and A CITY OF SADNESS) is $12; Cinematheque/Cleveland Museum of Art members $9. Member discounts are good only at the institution that the patron is a member of, though seniors 65 & over and students also pay $9 at the art museum, and those age 25 & under pay $9 at the Cinematheque. No passes or twofers will be accepted at either venue.
For further information, contact John Ewing or Tim Harry at (216) 421-7450 or send an email to email@example.com. The Cinematheque and the Cleveland Museum of Art each receive support from Cuyahoga Arts and Culture and the Ohio Arts Council.
Also Like Life: The Films of Hou Hsiao-hsien
Saturday, May 2, at 5:00 pm at the Cinematheque
A SUMMER AT GRANDPA’S
In this lovely, lyrical idyll, two children from Taipei—a 12-year-old boy and his younger sister—spend the summer at their grandfather’s house in the country when their mother is hospitalized. “[Hou’s] sunniest picture…His most Ozu-like film.” –Alan Stanbrook. Subtitles. 35mm. 93 min. Preceded at showtime by Hou’s two most recent movies, both shorts: The Electric Princess Picture House (Dian Ji Guan, France, 2007), a tribute to Robert Bresson from the anthology film Chacun son cinema (shown in two versions, 3 min. & 4 min.) and La Belle Epoque (Taiwan, 2011, 5 min.), Hou’s contribution to the omnibus film 10+10.
Wednesday, May 6, at 7:00 pm at the Cleveland Museum of Art
New 35mm Color Print!
DUST IN THE WIND
Two young Taiwanese lovers, too poor to finish high school, move from their village to Taipei, where they take a succession of menial jobs and drift apart. Ordinary events have extraordinary resonance in this moving, melancholy tale of lost love, wasted youth, and muted suffering—all rendered in a languid succession of evocative deep-focus compositions. “The perfect Hou film.”—James Udden. Subtitles. 35mm. 110 min.
Saturday, May 9, at 5:00 pm at the Cinematheque
THE BOYS FROM FENGKUEI
Hou Hsiao-hsien regards his fourth feature as his personal favorite and the true beginning of his directorial career. It follows a group of bored young Taiwanese men, fresh out of school, who leave their sleepy fishing village for a series of adventures in a southern port city. Subtitles. 35mm. 99 min.
Wednesday, May 13, at 7:00 pm at the Cleveland Museum of Art
DAUGHTER OF THE NILE
A young Taiwanese woman, whose mother is dead and father is absent, works at a Taipei KFC, goes to night school, and cares for her younger sister and wayward brother. When she can, she escapes into a Japanese manga that gives this urban movie its odd title. Subtitles. 35mm. 93 min.
Saturday, May 16, at 5:00 pm at the Cinematheque
A TIME TO LIVE AND A TIME TO DIE
Hou’s sixth feature was his U.S. breakthrough—an exquisite, semiautobiographical coming-of-age saga depicting the daily life of a Chinese family living in Taiwan during the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. Cut off from their cultural heritage after emigrating from the Chinese mainland in the late forties, this displaced family struggles to find new footing in a new land while also dealing with a widening generation gap within the household. “Hou’s first genuine masterpiece.” –Phillip Lopate. Subtitles. 35mm. 136 min.
Wednesday, May 20, at 7:00 pm at the Cleveland Museum of Art
Hou pays tribute to his artistic mentor, master Japanese filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu (1903–1963), in this understated, elegant tale of two modern young people (a music researcher and a bookstore clerk) who explore old Tokyo together via train but never communicate their love for each other. Subtitles. 35mm. 103 min.
Friday, May 22, at 6:45 pm at the Cleveland Museum of Art
New 35mm Print!
GOOD MEN, GOOD WOMEN
A previously taboo subject, Taiwan’s “White Terror” of the 1950s (when members of the intelligentsia were jailed and executed under suspicion of being antigovernment) is addressed in this multilayered masterpiece. The movie focuses on a contemporary actress starring in a movie about a real-life anti-Japanese resistance fighter from the 1940s who was imprisoned as a subversive a decade later. French film magazine Cahiers du Cinéma chose this movie as the best film of the 1990s. Subtitles. 35mm. 108 min.
Saturday, May 23, at 7:30 pm at the Cinematheque
Special Free Screening!
Richard I. Suchenski discusses
Richard Suchenski, director of the Center for Moving Image Arts at Bard College and organizer of the international touring retrospective “Also Like Life: The Films of Hou Hsiao-hsien,” introduces and discusses one of Hou’s most celebrated works. Inspired by the life of Taiwanese puppeteer Li Tien-lu, an official “national treasure” who appeared in Hou’s previous films City of Sadness and Dust in the Wind and was 84 when this movie was made (he died in 1998), The Puppetmaster intercuts Li’s first-person recollections with dramatic reenactments of episodes from his turbulent life. This seamless, multi-layered narrative transports us back to Li’s childhood during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan, to his days on the road with a troupe of traveling puppeteers, to his censorship battles with political authorities, and to his ongoing struggles with poverty and traditional family life. There are also memorable puppet performances. Subtitles. 35mm. 142 min. Admission free.
Sunday, May 24, at 12:30 pm at the Cleveland Museum of Art
Special Free Screening!
Richard I. Suchenski discusses
A CITY OF SADNESS
Taiwan’s chaotic history during the four years after the end of World War II—from Japan’s surrender to the takeover of the island by Chiang Kai-shek’s routed Nationalist forces fleeing Communist China—is seen through the story of the Lin family (an old father and his four grown sons), whose fortunes rise and fall with the currents of history. With Tony Leung. “One of the supreme masterworks of the contemporary cinema.”—Jonathan Rosenbaum. Richard I. Suchenski, director of the Center for Moving Image Arts at Bard College and organizer of the Hou retrospective, will introduce and discuss the film. Subtitles. 35mm. 158 min. Admission free but ticket required.
Wednesday, May 27, at 6:45 pm at the Cleveland Museum of Art
GOODBYE SOUTH, GOODBYE
Hou abandons his stationary camera for a restless portrait of three contemporary Taiwanese get-rich-quick schemers who frequent gambling dens, karaoke bars, and pig farms on a fast track to nowhere. One of Hou’s most-admired movies. Subtitles. 35mm. 112 min.
Saturday, May 30, at 6:50 pm at the Cinematheque
New 35mm Color Print!
FLOWERS OF SHANGHAI
Acclaimed by numerous critics as the best movie of 1998, Hou’s celebrated film focuses on the denizens of an upper-class brothel in turn-of-the-century Shanghai. Bathed in golden light and fluidly shot in the brothel’s interiors, this serene, haunting portrait perfectly captures the lonely, obsessive, enclosed lives of five elegant “flower girls” and their regular patrons. With Tony Leung. “(A) visually ravishing masterpiece…Flowers of Shanghai is perfect, and one of the most beautiful films ever made.” –Phillip Lopate. Subtitles. 35mm. 113 min.
Saturday, June 6, at 8:20 pm at the Cinematheque
Chinese pop star Shu Qi plays a bar hostess torn between two men—her possessive live-in boyfriend and a small-time gangster who offers her refuge and the promise of love—in Hou’s portrait of life in contemporary Taipei. If the urban milieu and techno soundtrack are new for Hou, the deliberate pacing, formal rigor, gorgeous cinematography (by Ping Bin Lee, who also shot In the Mood for Love), and trance-like mood recall his previous masterpiece, Flowers of Shanghai. Subtitles. 35mm. 119 min.
Friday, June 12, at 8:35 pm at the Cinematheque
Hou tells three love stories set in three different eras of Taiwanese/Chinese history, and Chang Chen and Shu Qi play the lovers in all three stories. The first, “A Time for Love,” is set in pop-music-filled 1966 and overflows with youthful yearning. It tells of a young army recruit who becomes smitten with a young woman working in a billiard parlor. “A Time for Freedom” is an artistically daring period romance set in 1911 at an upscale brothel reminiscent of the one in Hou’s Flowers of Shanghai. The third story, “A Time for Youth,” is set in present-day Taipei, where a singer abandons her female lover for a young male photographer. “[A] masterpiece…The first section is one of the most perfect pieces of cinema I’ve ever seen.” –Jim Jarmusch. “A masterpiece…This is why cinema exists.” –A.O. Scott, The NY Times. Subtitles. 35mm. 130 min.
Friday, June 19, at 7:00 pm at the Cinematheque
FLIGHT OF THE RED BALLOON
Juliette Binoche stars in the first Hou Hsiao-hsien film made outside of Asia. Produced by the Musée d’Orsay, it’s one of the director’s most rapturous works. Inspired by Albert Lamourisse’s 1956 kids’ classic The Red Balloon, Hou’s movie tells of a Taiwanese film student in Paris who is hired by a frazzled single mom (Binoche) to be nanny to her seven-year-old son. “A meditation on art, life, loneliness and the links between friends and strangers.” –Philadelphia Inquirer. “A movie of genius.” –J. Hoberman, Village Voice. Subtitles. 35mm. 115 min.