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4.2
325 Ratings

The Puppetmaster

Xi meng ren sheng

Directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien
Taiwan, 1993
Biography, Drama, War

Synopsis

The childhood and early adulthood of Li Tien-lu, an 84-year-old Taiwanese puppet master, comes to life using a combination of documentary technique and elegant dramatization, while the real Li functions as on-and-off-screen narrator, as the film travels from 1908 to 1945.

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The Puppetmaster Directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien
I love this film. It’s the Hou Hsiao-hsien film I would take to my grave, the one many others would too. It’s just that “greatness” is not quite the right word to ascribe to such a self-effacing movie. It’s long but not big, complex but not epic, morally committed but not given to proselytizing, and offers no grand spittle in the face of the cruelty of colonization.
August 13, 2008
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The viewer becomes aware of the mechanics of Hou’s film — the film’s theatricality, its existence in the realm of fiction, is made manifest. The figures of the puppetmaster’s personal history become like his puppets, performing a repeated, stylized version of the past on a small stage.
July 11, 2004
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By tackling history through the prism of one man’s tumultuous life, Hou forms a link between the personal and the political, and in the figure of Li—a person whose life eerily mirrors his country’s half-century struggle for identity—the filmmaker finds an ideal vehicle through which to tell Taiwan’s story of subjugation, resistance, and liberation.
September 18, 2003
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