Saturday, August 25, 2012

HHH – portrait de Hou Hsiao-hsien

Cinéma, de notre temps: HHH – portrait de Hou Hsiao-hsien. FR/TW © 1997 AMIP / La Sept-Arte /INA. PC also: Arc-Light Films / Hsu Hsiao-ming Film Corp. P: Xavier Carniaux, Peggy Chiao. D+SC: Olivier Assayas. DP: Éric Gautier – 35 mm – colour. S: Tu Du-Che, William Flageollet. ED: Marie Lecœur. Production manager: Elisabeth Marlangias. Featuring: Hou Hsiao-hsien, Chen Kuo-fu, Chu T'ien-wen, Kao She, Lin Giang, Tu Du-che, Wu Nien-jen. Not released in Finland. 90 min. A Betacam with English subtitles by Andrew Litwack from Institut Français. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Olivier Assayas), 25 August 2012.

Clips from: A Time to Live, and a Time to Die (1985), A City of Sadness (1989), The Puppet Master (1993), Goodbye, South, Goodbye (1996).

Larry Gross in his essay on HHH comments on the place of Olivier Assayas in the history of the cinema. The great artistic blooming of the cinema that had started after WWII came to an end in the 1970s. The inspiration of modernism was being exhausted. The fire of la Nouvelle Vague was fading away. The golden age of new American cinema ended, too.

Olivier Assayas as a young critic belonged to the early discoverers of Asian cinematic modernism, and in Hou Hsiao-hsien's movies he found elective affinities. These were among his main sources of inspiration in contemporary cinema.

HHH is a central work in the oeuvre of Assayas, a film illuminating about Hou, and a major achievement of building bridges between cultures. We learn a lot about history and ways of life on Taiwan. We also get keys to understanding Chinese approaches to life, to philosophic stances different from European ones, to ways of  Chinese dignity and courtesy.

Assayas creates an atmosphere of confidence and friendship as we follow Hou to the streets of his childhood, and to favourite restaurants, cafés and karaoke bars, joined by his colleagues, partners, and friends. His screenwriters, actors, cinematographers and sound designers contribute to the story. We start to get acquainted with ways of life that are in the process of changing and vanishing. Taiwan is a society that has always been based on impermanence. Hou's parents expected to return to mainland China any year.

Hou is a good singer, and in the conclusion he sings two old popular Taiwanese songs to his friends in a karaoke bar.

Betacam quality.

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