In Hou Hsiao-hsien’s early film, an eleven year-old Taipei boy, Tung-Tung and his 4-year old sister Ting-Ting are sent to the country to spend the summer with their grandparents after their mother falls ill. The children’s summer is delightfully carefree, but the adult world slowly encroaches on their play. Their uncle impregnates a girl but falls in love with a different girl, and two of his pals are wanted for robbing and beating a pair of motorists. A developmentally disabled neighbor causes more controversy, but also rescues Ting-Ting from an oncoming train (she’s stuck there due to a thoughtless prank played on her by her brother and his friends). And Tung-Tung worries over his mother, hoping for news of her recovery. —Combustible Celluloid
Director Hou Hsiao Hsien, in a 1988 New York Film Festival World Critics Poll, was voted one of three directors who would most likely shape cinema in the coming decades. He has since become one of the most respected, influential directors working in cinema today. In spite of his international renown, his films have focused exclusively on his native Taiwan, offering finely textured human dramas that deal with the subtleties of family relationships against the backdrop of the island’s turbulent, often bloody history. All of his movies deal in some manner with questions of personal and national identity, particularly, “What does it mean to be Taiwanese?” In a country that has been colonized first by the Japanese and then by Chiang Kai-Shek’s repressive Nationalist Government, this question is pregnant with political connotations.
Hou was born to a member of the Hakka ethnic minority in southern Guangdong province in mainland China, but his parents emigrated to Kaohsiung, Taiwan… read more