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Hou Hsiao-hsien: The measure of the man

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Tonight Pacific Cinémathèque launches a massive retrospective of the work of Taiwanese New Wave filmmaker Hou Hsiao-hsien, one of the most important and influential artists to emerge in world cinema over the past three decades. Put together by the Center for Moving Image Arts at Bard College, Also Like Life: The Films of Hou Hsiao-hsien will screen all 17 films Hou has released to date — including three early romantic comedies — as well as Edward Yang’s Taipei Story (1985) (in which Hou played the male lead, co-wrote the screenplay with Chu Tien-wen and mortgaged his house to finance the film) and Chen Kun-hou’s Growing Up (1983). For a complete schedule visit
Hou’s films focus on Taiwanese culture and history but are informed by outside sources particularly the golden age of Hong Kong cinema. He’s shared actors and crew with Wong Kar-wai, in fact two of his stars in Flowers of Shanghai, the husband and wife team of Tony Leung and Carina Lau, are veterans of Wong Kar-wai’s romantic modernist cinema (Days of Being Wild, In the Mood for Love and 2046). Here’s 10 things you should know about Hou Hsiao-hsien and his work:

10. Hou Hsiao-hsien was born in Mei County, Guangdong province, mainland China, in 1947. His family, of Hakka Han ethnicity, fled the Chinese Civil War to Taiwan the following year. Trailer for Also Like Life: The Films of Hou Hsiao-hsien:

9. The Taiwanese director was voted “Director of the Decade” for the 1990s. Toronto International Film Festival Higher Learning panel on Hou in 2013:

8. Olivier Assayas’ documentary on the filmmaker: HHH: Portrait de Hou Hsiao-hsien (1997)

7. Long takes and minimal camera movement characterize Hou’s cinematic style. He’s said in interviews that he used long takes in some of his early films to soften the amateurish nature of the cast. Contrasting and comparing the recurring motifs of railroads and radios in his four Hou films:

6. Compared stylistically to the work of Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu Hou has said he didn’t come across Ozu’s work until he was well into his own career in the 1980s. in 2003 he was commissioned by Shochiku studio to make a film, Café Lumière, honouring Ozu’s centenary. Hou Hsiao-hsien on Ozu:

5. Hou has used a wide range of actors in his films from nonprofessionals to Hong Kong stars. Flowers of Shanghai  Yoshihiro Hanno. soundtrack:

4. He pays homage to French filmmaker Albert Lamorisse in 2007’s Flight of the Red Balloon: (Hsiao-hsien Hou, Le Ballon Rouge trailer)

3. The filmmaker has collaborated with homegrown Taiwanese talent such as cinematographer Mark Lee Ping-bin, actress Shu Qi and actor jack Kao on several films.
Millennium Mambo: Millenium Mambo (trailer) (2001) Hou Hsiao Hsien

2. Hou wrote and performed two songs on the soundtrack for Hsu Hsiao-ming’s 1992 film Dust of Angels.

1. Hou Hsiao-hsien’s latest film The Assassin wrapped its 15-month shoot recently in Taiwan. Based on a short story, the film stars Shu Qi as a female assassin during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.) who begins to question her loyalties when she falls in love with one of her targets. Approximately half the film’s budget came from China, a first for Hou. Shooting began on Wudang Mountain in 2012: