Close Up

17 - 29 June 2019: Three Times


Three Times
Hou Hsiao-Hsien, 2005, 130 min, 35mm
Mandarin & Taiwanese with English subtitles

"“If anything sums up both the Taiwanese Experience and Hou’s films, it is sudden, unexpected, and often irreversible changes,” writes film scholar James Udden, a characterization that might have provided the structural basis for Three Times, Hou’s tripartite narrative of missed connections across the ages. Chen Chang and Qi Shu play fated lovers weaving through a compendium of milieus familiar to Hou: a 1965 urban pool hall straight out of The Boys from Fengkuei, a 1911 Chinese brothel reminiscent of those in Flowers of Shanghai, and Taipei nightlife circa 2005, an echo of Millenium Mambo. Titling his chapters “A Time for Love,” “A Time for Freedom,” and “A Time for Youth,” Hou sets himself up for charges of schematism only to undercut any on-the-nose implications with his typical unassuming direction, submerging characters into larger sociopolitical networks to which they are inevitably bound for better or worse. Three Times is Hou’s most accessible, stylistically varied effort – the 1911 portion plays out as a silent film with intertitles – but its divided structure is not without a degree of rigor: temporal leaps occur without apparent warning and without narrative closure, an elliptical strategy that lends an inconclusive air of melancholy." – Harvard Film Archive

Part of our Taipei Stories programme