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Masters of Asian Cinema: Yasujiro Ozu and Hou Hsiao-hsien

Saturday, February 20, 2010
8:00 p.m. A City of Sadness
Hou Hsiao-hsien (Taiwan, 1989)

New Print

(Beiqing chengshi). Hou Hsiao-hsien’s cinema draws comparisons to Yasujiro Ozu’s with its ability to turn the ordinary—homes and hallways, a family dining together—into the extraordinary, repeating shots so that a lived-in space becomes as familiar as the characters within it. Hou’s 1989 epic A City of Sadness has been called not only his crowning film, but “one of the supreme masterworks of contemporary cinema” (Jonathan Rosenbaum). Following the Lin family from 1945 to 1949, a momentous historical period encompassing Taiwan’s independence from Japan and its secession from the mainland, the film courted controversy (and became a box-office hit) by addressing the then-taboo subject of the “February 28th Incident,” when the Nationalist government met a popular uprising with a brutal crackdown. Hou’s particular genius lies in reflecting such large-scale social and political events in minute, highly personal moments: children being born, conversations among friends and family, goodbyes and hellos exchanged on the same hilly streets as times, and governments, change.

—Jason Sanders

• Written by Wu Nien-jen, Chu Tien-wen. Photographed by Chen Hwai-en. With Tony Leung, Hsin Shu-fen, Li Tien-lu, Jack Kao. (158 mins, In Mandarin, Taiwanese, Cantonese, Japanese with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, From TECO)