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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A perfect example of the power of « micro-histoire » to tell the story of a nation through the perspective of the « ordinary peoples » and cultural manifestation. I admire the « form » (blurring line between documentary/fiction, ellipse and « fil the blank » storytelling emphasize the subjectivity of memory, the bressonian's use of off-screen narration, long shot perspective) A slow difficult and boring masterpiece.
The film completely opened up to me when I saw it in 35mm, as opposed to the VHS copy I had originally seen. It's both a transitory film (in terms of aesthetics, the camera moves far more than A City of Sadness), and a peak for Hou in historical complexity and experience. Rewatching it on film was like rediscovering Hou, a beautiful experience!
Lo que más me cautiva de esta película son los momentos en que se torna testimonial. La voz en off que a inicio narraba, más adelante se materializa y toma las riendas de un narrador en primera persona. Hsiao Hsien alude a una suerte de cine testimonial, sin convertirlo en un documental. Está además su estilo de convertirlo en casi una épica. Son fases de un personaje y el contexto. Tono dramático y de aprendizaje.
I was lucky enough to watch this on a rather crappy print at Southbank last week. A wonderful film from a very great director. I still think A City of Sadness is his masterpiece but this runs it close and is more formally inventive with its blend of interview, drama and theatre.