This was the first Hsiao-Hsien film I saw, way back in 2005. Alongside other art-house directors like Weerasthakul, I understand on a cerebral level why they are so admired, but I require further inquiry to fully grasp their value.
The first Hou Hsiao film to watch, the first thing i noticed is the control over his actors you can see some methods has been done here, i almost lost it in "time of freedom" part .. the choice of being silent was not easy to keep your track as a viewer.
A quiet moment of reflection and self-interrogation. The filmmaker Hou found his voice in (1966), the formalist that conquered the ungainly realm of 'World Cinema' (1911), and the sensualist's anxious (re)turn to youth and urban postmodernity (2005). Simultaneously the minor work of a master and a major summation and pivot point, which we will surely be returning to often when Hou's work is finally complete.
Watching it again ten years later, I was struck by its datedness, how neatly Hou's work during this period encapsulated the world art cinema ideal, an ideal that looks a little quaint and stale from here, at least to me. But, you know, it's beautiful, and a virtuoso exercise; perhaps the ultimate articulation of Hou's precision, versatility, and style. And "Rain and Tears," man, over and over and then again please.
I had qualms with A Time for Freedom because if you're gonna go silent, I believe you gotta go all out. It just felt to me like I messed up one of the audio tracks on the DVD and thus can only hear the soundtrack and foley but no voices.
I agree with Xavier, this movie doesn't seem to be about love. In fact, the stories become increasingly less romantic and the relationship more shallow. There were some great touches (shot architecture in the first part, the use of extra-diegetic music in the second, subtle and complex storytelling in the third), but I didn't find the whole to be greater than the sum of its parts.