I’ve alternately great and terrible things about this guy, and all I’ve seen sadly is The Flight of the Red Balloon, which I very much enjoyed. Anyone care to point me in the right direction? I’m trying to acquire A City of Sadness and The Puppetmaster, but perhaps those aren’t the best places to start.
If you want to do it somewhat chronologically, The Boys from Fengkuei is a very good companion piece A Time to Live and a Time to Die.
Just bite the bullet and see his masterpiece Goodbye South, Goodbye. If you don’t like it, chances are he’s not for you. It’s a brilliant film.
I think the best starting point would be one of his earlier films about childhood (A Summer at Grandpa´s; The Time to Live and the Time to Die), then continue with his authentic portrayals of youths (Goodbye South Goodbye; Millenium Mambo), take a break in order to read up on Taiwanese history since the Japanese occupation and finally watch his historical masterpieces (A City of Sadness; The Puppetmaster).
Three Times is my personal favourite, check that out before reading reviews if possible. Please don’t split the segments up when judging either.
Puppetmaster is also quietly beautiful, and an important document of a bygone culture, as is A Time to Live a Time to Die.
I need to see his earlier films.
I agree with apursansar, I think A Summer at Grandpa’s is a good place to start in terms of his earlier works. Maybe I’m sentimental, but I’m really fond of his early films about childhood and they still remain as some of my favourites from him, despite having seen his later works as well. With that, if you can manage to find them, are his other earlier films about youth — Dust in the Wind and The Boys from Fengkuei, along with the wonderful A Time to Live and a Time to Die.
From his more recent works, I enjoyed Three Times and Millennium Mambo, which are more readily available I think.
I still haven’t seen The Puppetmaster actually, but I do agree that A City of Sadness can best be appreciated if some previous knowledge about Taiwan’s history is present.
His earlier films really need proper releases…
Definitely A City of Sadness, Dust In the Wind, or The Time to Live and the Time to Die. To be honest, the man’s been pretty consistent so even recent works like Cafe Lumiere would be an acceptable entry point.
My favorite is DUST IN THE WIND. But most of his earlier films are not available on region 1 (or have no English subtitles).
They use to have this great boxset but I think its out of print now sadly.
For my side, Hou is one of the finest living filmmakers in the world. A TIME TO LIVE AND A TIME TO DIE and the trilogy on Taiwanese history ( CITY OF SADNESS; THE PUPPETMASTER and GOOD MEN, GOOD WOMEN) are films I still discover things after seeing this a dozen times. THREE TIMES is a kind of summing up of his work. The first episode refers to the (sometimes autobiographical films made in the 80s), the second one, a hommage to silent cinema refers to his trilogy and FLOWERS OF SHANGHAI, a period in that Hou dealt with history. The second episode of THREE TIMES and FLOWERS OF SHANGHAI take place close before the invention of cinema, the puppetmaster in his film with the same title is literally almost as old than cinema. The third episode , for my side the weakest refers to MILLENIUM MAMBO and GOODBYE SOUTH, GOODBYE, his films taking place in contemporary Taiwan. I also like CAFE LUMIERE, this hommage to Ozu which is my favorite film by Hou in this decade.
I think it is possible to watch these films without knowing too much about the background.
I hink my preferences are tending between PUPPETMASTER 8with extremely long and beautiful takes and GOOD MEN, GOOD WOMEN, for my side the best “film in film” ever made.
Don’t start with the Kenny Bee rom-coms, Hou made. lol. That’s all I can say. I saw his first film on print at the start of the year and while it was watchable nothing really to suggest what was to come. Seriously though, his section of the portmanteau “Sandwich Man”, “Boys From Fengkuei”, “City of Sadness”, “Dust in the Wind”, “Flowers of Shanghai”.
City of Sadness,Dust in the Wind,Three Times and Millenium Mambo are my favorite Hsaio-Hsien.
But I largely prefer Tsai Ming-Liang.
@Edwin: I just showed my students MILLENNIUM MAMBO and the response was pretty positive. I suspect some of them will probably survey this thread because they have to write about Hou and Taiwanese cinema. I like Tsai’s work but IMO Hou has had a more fascinating career arc.
City of Sadness, Dust in the Wind, A Time to Live and a Time to Die, The Puppetmaster and Three Times are my favourites. But his body of work is all extraordinary.
Is it a good choice to start with M. Mambo? i’am dying to watch that film.