“We live three times as long since man invented movies.”

First movie watched in 2017. Interweaving life stories of family members during the year grandma spent in a coma, with mirrors of behaviors and situations across generations.

NJ and daughter Ting-Ting with the happy couple:

NJ is Nien-Jen Wu (cowrote Hou Hsiao-Hsien films including City of Sadness and The Puppetmaster). He’s a reasonable, middle-aged, frowny-faced guy disillusioned with his job. He bumps into an ex, Sherry, at the wedding, then arranges to meet her in Japan while courting software developer Ota (Issei Ogata, the emperor in The Sun) for work. Having casual conversations with Ota about music and spending his days with Sherry (Su-Yun Ko also played a lead male character’s Tokyo ex in Taipei Story) gives him nostalgia flashbacks of first love, while his daughter Ting-Ting is home dealing with similar issues firsthand.

Ting-Ting starts the movie feeling guilty that she might be responsible for grandma’s stroke, and soon adds more typical teenage problems into the mix, as she picks up her new neighbor Lili’s barely-ex-boyfriend Fatty, but the two of them are nervously unsure how to be in a romantic relationship (and incidentally, he later murders the neighbor’s mom’s boyfriend).

The neighbor with Fatty, who is not fat:

Min-Min is the mom of the family (Elaine Jin, also a mom in A Brighter Summer Day), has a breakdown while trying to talk to her comatose mom then disappears to a meditation retreat for the rest of the movie. And young son Yang-Yang is a slightly offbeat kid (spotted in his room: Astro Boy, Mickey Mouse, Batman, Pikachu… and the Hindenburg) who takes photos of the backs of people’s heads (a naïve, questioning photographer/observer who shows people things they can’t see for themselves, named after the film’s director, hmm).

Yang-Yang couldn’t deal with the wedding reception food:

Newlywed astrology nut A-Di is Min-Min’s brother, can’t keep his financial or romantic act together, with his longtime ex-girlfriend Yun-Yun showing up at the wedding and baby shower and making scenes. His wife Xiao Yan threatens to leave then comes back thinking A-Di has attempted suicide – he says he just fell asleep in the tub with the gas on. And I think A-Di’s money is stolen by business partner Piggy (yes, there’s a Piggy and a Fatty).

Yang won best director at Cannes, and died of cancer seven years later without producing a follow-up, which was rumored to be an animated Jackie Chan feature.

Kent Jones:

The New Taiwan Cinema was a predominantly urban phenomenon, the better to dramatize the rapacious speed of cultural upheaval. And Yang, Hou, and the slightly younger, Malaysian-born Tsai have employed, each in his own unique way, the sights, textures, rhythms, and social configurations of city living to devastating effect … Yang has set his city symphonies in a variety of emotional keys — the doleful lament of Taipei Story, the gridlike coolness of The Terrorizer, the comic hysteria of A Confucian Confusion, the carefully modulated fury of Mahjong. In Yi Yi, he brings all of these moods together, never allowing any one of them to take precedence over another. Which is to say that this is a grand choral work, with a panoptic majesty.

In reviews of What Time Is It There, critics praise the cinematography of Benoit Delhomme. And sure, it looked good on DVD, but watching Stray Dogs in HD made a massive difference. When your movie involves people standing in the middle distance in a room, it helps to be able to see the person, and the room.

A movie about people with shitty jobs trying to hold their lives together, I suppose. Lee has two kids, stands on corners in the miserable wind and rain holding up an advertisement. And there’s a woman who works at a grocery store, seems efficient at her job, then goes home to a derelict building where her hobbies are feeding wild dogs and staring at a wall mural.

I assumed the woman was played by Chen Shiang-chyi from What Time Is It There, but I recognized Yi-Ching Lu in a promo still from the film, and that’s the same character in the movie, so I was confused until I read this from Tony Rayns: “Complicating matters just a little, she is played by all three of Tsai’s favorite actors: Yang Kuei-mei in the prologue, Lu Yi-ching in the supermarket, and Chen Shiang-chyi in the closing scenes.”

Woman 2:

Nick Pinkerton on the woman:

Every time a new actress replaces the last, the character is introduced in such a fashion that it’s impossible to gauge their familiarity or lack thereof with Lee’s character or the children. There is sufficient evidence to suggest either that they are all facets of the same woman, or that they are three different women altogether; there’s not enough evidence to prove either conclusion. Tsai’s own explanation is that, having suffered recent ill health, he feared that this would be his last chance to work with the actresses.

Woman 3:

If there’s anything Walker has taught me it’s to appreciate very small movements and variations in apparent stillness – plenty of opportunity for that here. This is a movie that ends with a twenty-minute scene (in two shots) of two people staring at a wall. Before that, the woman seems to kidnap Lee’s children, then they all end up at her house together, where he quietly breaks into her collection of tiny liquor bottles.

Lee vs. cabbage:

Tsai’s apparent obsession with water (and peeing) continues here. Watching so much of his work in a row made me yearn for noodles, but I didn’t explain myself sufficiently so Katy made lasagna.

Pinkerton again, from his fantastic review in Reverse Shot:

The battering rains which never seem to cease in Tsai’s Taipei have, like time, the power to erode, wear down — and with time, as Lee has grown from lost boy to thickset, ruddy middle-aged man, Tsai’s cinema has itself eroded. The trajectory of Tsai’s filmography has been an ongoing act of paring away. It seems difficult to believe today, but Rebels of the Neon Gods actually had energetic tracking shots. It had theme music! Catchy theme music! … In Tsai’s fallen world, his tired, poor, wretched refuse can ask for nothing more than refuge, silence and space enough to dream in and something better to dream of, a shrine to honor with their tears. In Stray Dogs, that shrine is the shore of a virginal Taiwan. For the rest of us who persist in a habit of staring at pictures on walls, Stray Dogs itself will do nicely.

Woman 1:

Tsai:

When I was a little boy, I used to go to a market next to a clock tower with my grandmother. In my memory, that clock tower looked gigantic. A while later, when the market disappeared, the tower looked more diminutive than ever. Each time I walked past that tower I felt sorrow. Sometimes reality is so depressing one can barely face it. Those disappeared theaters from the memories of my childhood, when I began traveling the world, I realized they can be found everywhere, in equal states of dilapidation, many of which become cruising spots. I liked to go on my own adventures in these places. It’s so hard to describe the feeling I get in these spaces, like a dream covered in mold. Typical trajectories are not part of my world, or my films, and most definitely not part of my dreams.

Xiao Kang (2015)

Since I watched a Tsai short after What Time Is It There, I dug up this two-minute, windowboxed, sepia-toned piece focusing on Lee Kang-sheng. Used as a trailer for the Vienna film festival which began last month.

M. D’Angelo:

One day I may sit down and watch his entire oeuvre in succession — it’s hard to think of another contemporary filmmaker for which that project would potentially be more revelatory.

I haven’t watched a narrative (non-Walker) Tsai movie in a while, and I forget that they don’t exactly have stories that make any proper sense. For some reason I was in the mood to watch walker Lee Kang-sheng do nothing much in front of a static camera for many hours, so I double-featured this with Stray Dogs.

Lee is a hapless sidewalk watch salesman who has just lost his father (the father shows up in a prologue before we know who he is). Lee lives with his mom (Yi-Ching Lu) who is taking the father’s death hard. He sells a watch (his own) to Chen Shiang-chyi on her way to Paris, then the movie starts following the two of them separately.

Lee watches a film (Dragon Inn?) with uninvited friend:

Lee watches Leaud:

Chen meets Leaud:

She doesn’t have much story to speak of, hangs around Paris looking lonely, bumps into Jean-Pierre Leaud and gets his phone number in a creepy-hilarious scene, gets sick in a restaurant and goes home with a woman (Cecilia Yip).

Meanwhile in Taiwan (New Taipei City, I think, before it was called that), Lee watches The 400 Blows and becomes obsessed with changing every clock he sees to Paris time, and his mom thinks the changed clocks are signs from her dead husband, starts taping up the windows to conform to “his time”. It doesn’t seem to end well. His case of watches gets stolen, and in Paris, Chen’s suitcase gets stolen and thrown in the lake… then fished out by Lee’s dead father.

This played Cannes the year of Millennium Mambo, Va Savoir, I’m Going Home, Mulholland Dr., In Praise of Love, Kandahar and The Piano Teacher – a year of puzzling films by great directors.


The Skywalk Is Gone (2002)

A crazy scene in a movie theater and its restroom in What Time Is It There prefigures Goodbye Dragon Inn. This short, made as an epilogue to What Time Is It There, sets up The Wayward Cloud.

Chen has returned to Taiwan, is looking for Lee but she’s confused that the skywalk is gone, replaced by an underpass, where they pass while Lee’s on his way to a porn audition.

Ed Gonzalez calls Lee and his mom “victims of the mundane and the repetitive”.
“It all comes back to the issue of time, which Tsai views as an immutable burden that people nonetheless seek to control.”

Chen with a walkin’ monk:

Chen just missing Lee:

Tsai:

I enjoy putting characters in environments where it seems like they have no relationships with others because I want to think about what kind of distance we should keep between each other. I also like to put people in situations where they do not have love, because I want to know how much love we need, and what kind of relationships we want.

According to Senses of Cinema, Lee and his movie-parents appeared in those same roles in Rebels of the Neon God and The River.

Interview film, Shanghai stories, people talking about their parents and their own childhoods. Many stories end in death or disappearance. Very stylish looking doc, with some non-doc segments, including a recurring ghost woman (Zhao Tao of Still Life, Platform, The World).

Clips from a 1959 film by a different Wang Bing (the Coal Money director was born in ’67), from Red Persimmon, Two Stage Sisters, Spring in a Small Town, Flowers of Shanghai, Days of Being Wild, Antonioni’s China, and interviews with filmmakers and participants.

Wei Wei, star of Spring in a Small Town:

Tony Rayns:

Jia was invited to make a film “about Shanghai” to mark the opening of the Shanghai World Expo … his idea was to focus mainly on émigrés from Shanghai – politicians, soldiers, artists, gangsters – and to follow some of those émigrés to their subsequent bolt-holes in Taiwan and Hong Kong. … No film made anywhere has previously attempted a pan-Chinese view of the fall-out from the conflicts in China’s civil war.

I don’t have the context Tony Rayns has, have missed a lot in Jia’s films, but at least this one was fully narrated (and quite beautiful).

S. Kraicer:

[The interviewees] are mostly famous, and predominantly from the arts world: this is a top-down historical chronicle, unlike the bottom-up small-town tales that made Jia’s name 10 years ago … Many of the stories come from Shanghai’s two brief “golden ages.” The swinging cosmopolitan (and colonially controlled, gangster-ridden, Japanese-threatened) jazz age of the 1930s is the first. The second revival followed the Second World War during the civil war that culminated in the Communist Party victory in 1949 and the dispersal of many of the film’s interviewees to Hong Kong and Taiwan.

In Taiwan, the week leading up to January 2000, TV news reports that people are experiencing flu-like symptoms and then acting like cockroaches. But all we see is a strangely depopulated apartment building and market under constant rain. Drunken grocer (Kang-sheng Lee, star of every Tsai movie including Walker) upstairs has a nice place except for the hole the plumber has put in his floor leading to a woman downstairs (Kuei-Mei Yang, porn actress in The Wayward Cloud, schoolteacher in Eat Drink Man Woman) whose place is slowly flooding. So there’s a water shortage in The Wayward Cloud, plus a musical number set in a water tank of some sort – and now The Hole is the dampest movie I’ve ever seen.

Finally, I think he saves her from becoming a cockroach, pulling her upstairs through the hole. Is that what happens? Lot of long shots with slow tracking. Cool scene where he’s smoking on his landing while she’s on her own floor, pretending not to see each other, then a lipsync dance scene where she keeps chasing him while he escapes, all very Dennis Potter.

Acquarello:

Tsai’s oblique vision of a languishing, highly industrialized, and impersonal post “economic miracle” Taiwan recalls the bleak landscape and pervasive ennui of Michelangelo Antonioni’s films. The sound of incessant rain, extended silence, and viral quarantine create a sense of claustrophobia.

Part of the “2000 as Seen By” series. I’ve seen Hartley’s Book of Life and Sissako’s Life on Earth, not the ones by Miguel Albaladejo, Alain Berliner, Daniela Thomas and Walter Salles, Ildiko Enyedi or Laurent Cantet.

Sometimes called In The Hands of a Puppetmaster, presumably to distinguish it from the terrible Donald Sutherland movie The Puppet Masters and Full Moon’s Puppet Master series. Another Taiwanese-occupation historical drama, the center part of a trilogy with City of Sadness and Good Men, Good Women. City of Sadness seems more memorable than this one did since I had ol’ Tony Leung to latch onto. This one is more detached from the action, which is broken up over a longer timeline.

A true-ish story narrated by the film’s real-life subject, who appeared as an actor in previous Hou films. We don’t see him on-screen for the first third of the movie. His appearance brought to mind American Splendor, only with less humor and no cartoons. Wiki: “Based on the memoirs of Li Tian-lu, Taiwan’s most celebrated puppeteer, this story covers the years from Li’s birth in 1909 to the end of Japan’s fifty-year occupation of Taiwan in 1945.”

Real Mr. Li:

from V. Canby’s original Times review:

His story is revealed in a succession of short, often oblique but vivid vignettes. These begin with a dramatization of a family row about whether the baby is to bear the name of his mother’s or father’s family, a tale cut short by the real Mr. Li’s terse soundtrack interjection: “That’s how I was born.”

There are harrowing tales about his mother’s death, his unloved stepmother, his disinterested father and his rebellion as an adolescent, when he was apprenticed to a traveling puppet-theater troupe. From time to time, the audience is given long, wonderful chunks of Mr. Li, as a boy and as a young man, working his delicately fashioned hand puppets during performance.

A synopsis can’t convey the particular quality of “The Puppetmaster”; that is, the seductive way Mr. Hou takes the audience into a world of arcane rituals and rites. The director’s fondness for the meditative, stationary camera, which was favored by the Japanese film master Ozu, no longer looks borrowed but reimagined. The lack of camera movement and the long takes, in which an entire scene is shot without a cut, reflect the searching manner of an old man as he tries to make sense of the past.

The camera occasionally simply stares at a room or into a series of rooms that open one out of another before a character has entered or after a character has departed. It’s as if the mind of this singularly alert survivor were dealing with Proustian associations, memories uncovered by a kind of afternoon sunlight, or a cooking smell or the touch of someone long gone.

Young Fake Mr. Li:

I had trouble keeping up from the very start, when the old man narrates his own birth and explains why he’s got his mother’s last name. Obviously a movie that rewards a second viewing, once you’ve got a basic grasp on the plot. Neither am I sure which actors played what parts – usually I can use the IMDB cast to help figure out which characters were which, but not today.

Older Fake Mr. Li:

N. Schager:

That Li ascribes his origins to a set of legal provisions immediately connects him to his occupied homeland—a disempowered territory now defined by the rules and regulations of a foreign party—just as his age-old profession ties him to the ancestral traditions of Taiwanese culture. Such associations run throughout Hou’s biographical tale, with Li’s rebellion against his abusive father and stepmother, his exile from puppeteering after the Japanese forbade public performances, his compulsory work for a Japanese propaganda puppet troupe (part of the government’s “Japanization movement”), and his ultimate triumphant rebirth as a celebrated artist all designed to reflect the upheaval of a country in which the indigenous population was forced to accept that, as one drunken Imperial Army soldier tells Li, “You can never escape the fact that you are a colonized islander. A third-class citizen.”

By having Li relate altered versions of things we’ve already witnessed, Hou strikingly points out how the act of remembering invariably sparks a metamorphosis of what’s come before. Yet just as importantly, such a device allows the filmmaker to express the passage of time by asking viewers to experience the film’s occurrences in both real-time and, through our own reliving of certain scenes more than once via Li’s delayed annotations, the past. This process of experiential repetition is the film’s most arresting and vital structural component, linking now with then, the real with the semi-real, in a web of era-intertwined symbiosis.

I wish our gov’t would put on propaganda puppet shows:

When he’s eight, his grandmother gets sick, but as she’s recovering his mother dies instead. His girlfriend Big Eyes is sent away. Grandfather dies and little Li is beaten by his stepmom. But he gets his dad to let him join a puppet troupe, after which he’s traded away to other troupes for years and finally founds his own (called Also Like Life – so that’s where Shooting Down Pictures got their domain name from).

Japan starts interfering, prevents all outdoor performances in Taiwan, killing puppetry dead. Li moves in with an opera group, meets a prostitute named Leitzu. “I had told her before that I was married with children. But what about us? We are travelers that meet on a path.” Back into puppetry (and back with his family), he joins a couple of Japanese propaganda puppet theater groups, gets into a scuffle with an occupying officer, but gets away with it because of his fame and regard.

At the end of the war he has a terrible evacuation from Taipei. The whole family catches malaria and his youngest son and father-in-law both die. He joins a new theater group – the final shot is of the townspeople disassembling Japanese planes, after he’s told that the money to pay him comes from selling scrap metal.

Grunes: “The title refers to both Li’s profession and Taiwanese history under the Japanese, who appropriated Taiwanese puppetry for their own propagandistic purposes and who otherwise impressed their own culture on the Taiwanese, making puppets of them.”

T.M. Hoover:

It’s long but not big, complex but not epic, morally committed but not given to proselytizing, and offers no grand spittle in the face of the cruelty of colonization. Instead, it gives us the story of a man who had to organize his life around circumstances he did not want and, through the juxtaposition with the source of those trials (some of which had nothing to do with politics or other alterable conditions), talks of what one has to do when the gods throw thunderbolts at inconvenient times.

After false-starts with Flowers of Shanghai and Goodbye South, Goodbye, I figured out how to get on Hou’s wavelength with his Red Balloon and Three Times, so now trying something from his acclaimed 1980’s period. I liked it, and could follow reasonably well despite 90% of my knowledge of Taiwan’s post-Japanese-occupation history coming from a blurry bootleg of A Brighter Summer Day. Wikipedia, help us out with context here:

It tells the story of a family embroiled in the tragic “White Terror” that was wrought on the Taiwanese people by the Kuomintang government (KMT) after their arrival from mainland China in the late 1940s, during which thousands of Taiwanese were rounded up, shot, and/or sent to prison. The film was the first to deal openly with the KMT’s authoritarian misdeeds after its 1945 turnover of Taiwan from Japan, and the first to depict the 228 Incident of 1947, in which thousands of people were massacred.

“On August 15, 1945 Japan announced its unconditional surrender. Taiwan was liberated following 51 years of Japanese occupation. The wife of older brother Lin Wen-heung gave birth to a son. They named him Kang-ming, which means Light.” Brief introductions (Wen-heung is a stocky fellow) and a photo shoot, then suddenly a woman is narrating from the mountains, introducing W-H’s brother Wen-ching as a friend of her brother. W-C (Tony Leung 1 of 2046) is deaf/dumb (this was supposedly added to the script because Leung couldn’t speak the dialect convincingly, heh), a professional photographer who communicates to customers with gestures and to our new narrator (Hinomi) with pen/paper. W-C has other brothers besides stocky eldest Wen-heung – one disappeared in the war, and the other, Wen-leung (Jack Kao of a bunch of Hou’s films), came back mad.

W-C: happy, deaf

W-L: mad

But Wen-leung gets over his condition, joins organized crime, gets himself arrested and gets the straight Wen-heung in trouble. Eventually, W-H is killed and W-L terribly beaten, other characters disappear or escape to the mountains, and W-C ends up with Hinomi – but in the epilogue, after showing him with new wife and baby, even he is arrested again, and the titles tell us “December 1949. Mainland China is lost,” when the ROC moved to Taiwan (maintaining martial law, torture and execution for 40 years) and communist PRC formed in mainland China. So the movie takes place over four years, during which it doesn’t always seem like such sadness, but it sure turns out that way in the end.

IMDB:

As revealed in scriptwriter Chu Tien-Wen’s book, the original premise of this film is the reunion of an ex-gangster (which Hou Hsiao-Hsien intended to cast Chow Yun-fat for the role) and his former lover (supposedly played by Yang Li-Hua, the top Taiwanese Opera actress in real-life) in the 1970’s. Hou and Chu then extended the story to involve substantial flashbacks of the calamity of the woman’s family in late 1940’s (where the woman was the teenage daughter of Chen Song-Yong’s character). They then abandoned the former premise and instead focused on the 1940s’ story.

from an excellent essay by K. Lee for Reverse Shot:

Any given scene in City of Sadness has its own internal history informing the logic of its characters’ behaviors. Hou’s sense of dramatic conflict—one that’s unique in cinema—arises when the recurring presence of the past collides against an unfolding present unknown to both the characters and the viewer. …

City of Sadness envisions a massive shift in a tiny island’s social fabric caused by forces well beyond the scope of any person, or even a community. Everyone is overwhelmed. No less than five languages are spoken in the film: Japanese and four forms of Chinese. Even Chinese viewers require subtitles when watching this film. … Perhaps due to being the first movie to deal openly with the “2-28 Incident,” or perhaps because of the Golden Lion it won at Venice, City of Sadness was the top grossing domestic film of its year. Nonetheless, there was public dismay at the oblique nature of Hou’s storytelling and the fact that the atrocities of the “2-28 Incident” are never depicted directly onscreen (despite that there are more fight scenes and onscreen killings in City of Sadness than in all of Hou’s other films combined). …

Scenes pass like clouds, loosely connected, the overall story arc not clearly in sight, and only in retrospect, with a final shot of an empty room that once held scores of family and friends, does the sum total of the film materialize, narrative, historical, emotional. Hou’s aim is nothing less than to enact how people live history—not as something happening right in front of them, but around them and beyond them, the same way then as now. In City of Sadness the horrors of the world occur almost always out of view, but it makes their presence all the more unsettlingly palpable.

A fairly good drama centered more around family problems than food preparation. Katy and I want more food in our food movies, not just women with 80’s hair having romantic entanglements. Don’t get me wrong – the food scenes were very nice, but there could have been at least 15 more minutes’ worth.

Master chef Chu has lost his wife and his sense of taste, and now the coworker who acts as Chu’s taster has died of a heart attack. Chu’s repressed daughter Jia-Jen is a schoolteacher with a crush on a co-worker, tempermental daughter Jia-Chien is an executive, also with a crush on a co-worker but one whom she wrongly suspects of being her sister’s ex, and youngest daughter is still in school. Plus the daughters have a quiet friend with an obnoxious mom.

Now, it would seem that the two older daughters would sort out their relationship issues and end up happily together with their guys, and that happens for at least one, but the movie throws a couple love-interest curveballs when the youngest daughter gets pregnant and moves in with her boy, and the father announces that he’s marrying the young friend, not her mother. And when he cooks for his young bride he regains his sense of taste. Remade in California with Mexican-American cuisine, Nikolai Kinski and The State’s Ken Marino.

Rare 16mm print from Emory’s own collection. I was wary when the first word onscreen read “Strring,” but the subtitles turned out to be good.

Chin has frizzy hair, large glasses, has been dating round-headed fabric-store worker Lon since high school and they don’t seem very close anymore. Also they wear bad suits in every scene. Chin works assisting Ms. Mei, is getting a raise in her first scene at work, and the company is getting bought out (due to financial ruin from a 10 cm surveying error) in the next.

Her boyfriend Lon seems depressed, trades videotapes of baseball games with his former coach Mr. Lai. Lon’s ex Gwan is getting divorced, and Chin’s coworker Ko, also getting divorced, wants to hang out with Chin. Chin’s dad is inappropriate (and a financial mess, and former abuser), mom is evasive and withdrawn, and sister lives in a graffiti-laden high-rise (prominently scrawled: “Duran take youself”) with other kids. Lon runs into Kim, a cabbie friend with a flake wife and three unattended kids.

As the movie progresses (takes place over a few months), more and more money problems and relationship problems are revealed and intensified, not just from our central couple but everybody. The mood is occasionally lightened with a few jokes or some laughable 80’s fashion but there’s an air of constant unease. Things start to go bad when Lon gets into a bar brawl (to a Michael Jackson song, which may account for the movie’s unavailability on video), then Chin throws him out after he sees his ex, who is visiting from Tokyo.

Chin is being stalked by ex-coworker Ko at this point, and I wish I’d paid more attention to what he looked like, then maybe I’d be sure if he’s the one who stabs Lon to death at the end. Of Yang’s films I’ve only seen this, A Brighter Summer Day and Yi Yi, and each ends with a death. “Once it’s over, forget it. Understand?,” Lon says to the motorcycling assailant, who then follows Lon’s cab until the inevitable confrontation. Movie gets slightly metaphysical there at the end – he has a dying dream sequence reflected in an unplugged television, then it cuts from Lon, smoking, to the smoke above his head – beautifully done. Back to Chin, still unaware of her boyfriend’s fate, who is finally getting her job back, meeting her ex-and-future boss Ms. Mei in an empty, white office building, recalling the empty white apartment the couple was about to rent in the first scene.

Articles online mention visual distancing effects: characters peering through blinds, shots through mirrors, Chin’s ever-present sunglasses, one interaction shown only with shadows on a wall. They also mention Lon’s fantasies of playing baseball when he was younger, which I’d thought would be a bigger deal than it was. From skimming a couple articles I figured he’d be like the insufferable skateboard-head-injury guy in Little Children, but it’s more of a gently aimless pre-middle-aged malaise.

There’s a karaoke bar, but nothing that stands out as much as the karaoke scene in A Brighter Summer Day – better is a dance club where the power goes out in the middle of “Footloose” as Chin sits alone in the corner.

Written by Yang, Hou and T’ien-wen Chu (cowriter of Three Times, among others) and shot by Wei-han Yang, who worked with Yang again on Yi Yi but nothing in between.

Lead actress Chin Tsai married the director, was in a Stanley Kwan movie the following year which sounds pretty good, then nothing else. Hou Hsiao-hsien (Lon) was already a writer/director – his A Time to Live and a Time to Die came out the same year. Nien-Jen Wu (cabbie Kim) and I-Chen Ko (was he the stalker?) were also writer/directors… it’s an accomplished cast.