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Friday, April 28, 2006

SFIFF '06~!: Three Times [festival note]

Taiwan, 2005
Starring Shu Qi, Chang Chen, Mei Fang, Di Mei
Written by Chu Tien-Een
Directed by Hou Hsiao-Hsien

1966 is a time for love (and freedom and youth). From the moment the first bars of "Smoke Get in Your Eyes" waft in, we know HHH is taking another shot at his WKW impersonation, and this first segment damn near pulls it off. I excitedly anticipated the second English language song when the words "Rain and Tears" appeared on a letter to Shu's billiard room girl; it's not the Hi-Revving Tongues version -- now that would be asking for too much -- and so is barely a good song, but it's pretty wonderful as a description of Chang's mindstate. When we hear the song again, though it's accompanied by literal rain (thankfully not tears), it's like the clouds roll away. An earlier letter to an earlier billiard room girl (Mei Fang? Someone who can read the credits please tell me if she's the actress) produces an exquisite reaction shot, as anticipation turns into despair. It's a better piece of acting than either of the leads, who are solid enough, come up with.

1911 is a time for freedom (and love and youth). It's a little later than Flowers of Shanghai -- there are movies now, but they're silent, and Chang and Shu communicate in generously intertitles. They also move almost soundlessly; once you go back far enough the past always seems more graceful. The flaw of this segment, aside from memories of when HHH did this better, is the fatalism: Chang does a good deed which proves devastating for Shu, as she discovers when the image of a hand-mirror is focused to reveal the age of her new colleague. The moral, I guess, is beware of altruism in zero sum games.

2005 is a time for youth (and love and freedom). This time the light source du jour is the fluorescent tube (previously it was the lightbulb and the lamp). Mark Lee Pin-Bing gets to go nuts here, as Shu grasps one such tube to illuminate the photo-lined wall of Chang's corridor; elsewhere Li contrasts yellows and blues, internal and extenal lights. Shu gets to sing this time (not just lip-synch), as Chang and other photographers encircle and snap her. I've said before that HHH is more convincing with historical material, but this beats 1911 (not 1966). Maybe next time we'll get around to the mambo.


  • At 9:29 AM, Blogger yyzz said…

    i think her name is 陈诗珊 (chen shi shan?). i'm not sure how she transliterates her name or what name she uses in english.


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