This intimate epic chronicles the tragedies that befall the three Lin brothers, 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).
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some films can be called a "national cinema," a film that defines a nation--and many of them are not necessary good cinema, like "Gone With the Wind" for the US, "Les Enfants du Paradis" for France.
but for Taiwan, not only that "A City of Sadness" is a film that defines their nation, this is also truly great cinema. not so many people are that lucky--like "The Marriage of Maria Braun" for the germans.
One of my favourite subgenres - the individual submerged by the weight of history. HHH creates an intimate tragedy about the ways in which the political is always personal, and unrest in national stability often cause neglected (or sanctioned) casualties. I had minor issues (prob cultural) with recognising all characters/relationships, easily overlooked by gorgeous tableaux and Hou's epic vision.
HHH is a master in creating intimate movies about individual people that feel very epic. And Tony Leung's amazing performance makes City of Sadness stand out even more in his filmography than it already does.
Profound tale of Taivan's history is shown from the point of four brothers, their intense and dramatic lives during the shifting moments in the country. Hsiao-Hsien Hou's film gives unusual structure full of detailed views of day-to-day life, social and economic conditions, but most of all this striking poetic feeling of Taiwanese cultural identity.
Most enjoyable of the trilogy. I watched a beautiful 35mm print, enjoyed every frame of it.
The film begins with an extensive written prologue accompanied by photos explaining Taiwan's post WW2 history(Nationalists vs Communists) and its effect on one family. So not tediously political but also a good history lesson.
Tony Leung steals the show with a non speaking role.
Immeasurably more valid than ‘The Godfather’ but the rose-tinted Stockholm syndrome ensures it as little more than dramatist disaster porn laid on too thickly with the metaphors of disability. The iris is unmistakingly arthouse but the crux of the film unmitigatedly collapses under its own weight of excessive humanism and exploitation of tragedy, rendering it with less objectivity and sincerity than prescribed.