• Shu Qi in Hou Hsiao-Hsien's 'Three Times', now streaming at SBS On Demand alongside three other films from the acclaimed Taiwanese director. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
Four visually stunning, contemplative dramas from the acclaimed Taiwanese filmmaker are available to stream at SBS On Demand.
SBS Movies

27 Nov 2020 - 10:01 AM  UPDATED 27 Nov 2020 - 3:06 PM

Alongside Edward Yang (Yi Yi) and Tsai Ming-liang (What Time Is It There?), Hou Hsiao-Hsien is one of the leading filmmakers of the New Taiwanese Cinema that emerged in the early '80s. Famed for his naturalistic but sumptuously beautiful evocations of Taiwan and Greater China's past and present (with visits to Tokyo and Paris for, respectively, 2003's Cafe Lumiere and 2007's Juliette Binoche-led Flight of the Red Balloon), his films have a becalming, meditative pace, owing in large part to his trademark use of meticulously-staged long takes rather than extensive editing.

At SBS On Demand, you can stream four of Hou's most celebrated films: two semi-autobiographical coming-of-age dramas (1985's The Time To Live And The Time To Die and 1986's Dust in the Wind), the 2005 love story triptych Three Times (cited by writer-director Barry Jenkins as a key influence on the structure of his 2016 Best Picture-winner Moonlight) and 2015's long-in-the-making The Assassin, the director's unique take on the wuxia / martial arts genre.


The Time to Live and the Time to Die

Taiwan, 1985
Genre: Drama
Language: Mandarin, Hakka
Director: Hou Hsiao-Hsien
Starring: Ah-hsiao, Chia-bao Chang, Neng Chang, Chih-Chen Chen
What's it about?
Ah-Ha-Gu comes of age during a troubling time in his family's history. When the Gu family move from China to Taiwan, the elder family members struggle while Ah-Ha thrives; the generation gap becomes harder and harder to bridge. Writing for The Guardian, film critic Derek Malcolm described Hou's semi-autobiographical film (which takes place from 1947 to 1965) as "a superbly controlled piece of classical filmmaking, full of warmth and emotion". It also marked the first collaboration between Hou and regular cinematographer Mark Lee Ping Bing.


Dust in the Wind

Taiwan, 1986
Genre: Drama, Romance
Language: Mandarin, Min Nan, Cantonese
Director: Hou Hsiao-Hsien
Starring: Grace Chen, Shu-Fang Chen, Shu-Fen Hsin
What's it about?
A-yuan and A-yun are both from the small mining town of Jio-fen. They move to Taipei, where A-yuan is an apprentice by day and goes to night school, and A-yun works as a helper at a tailors. Everyone thinks they are meant for each other, and so do they. They fail to see time and fate are beyond their control - a theme that runs through Hou's work.


Three Times

Taiwan, France, 2005
Genre: Romance, Drama
Language: Mandarin, Min Nan
Director: Hou Hsiao-Hsien
Starring: Shu Qi, Chang Chen, Mei Fang, Su-jen Liao, Mei Di, Chen Shi-Zheng
What's it about?
This sensual triptych offers three intimate stories of love and memory over three different time periods (1911, 1966 and 2005), each focusing on a couple played by the same two actors (Shu Qi & Chang Chen). In "A Time for Love" set in 1966, a soldier searches for a young woman he met one afternoon playing pool; "A Time for Freedom," set in a bordello in 1911, revolves around a singer's longing to escape her surroundings; "A Time for Youth" set in 2005 Taipei, depicts a triangle in which a singer has an affair with a photographer while her partner suffers. The triptych structure was an admitted influence for director Barry Jenkins' Best Picture-winner Moonlight (2016).

Shu Qi in Hou Hsiao-Hsien's 'Three Times', now streaming at SBS On Demand alongside three other films from the acclaimed Taiwanese director.


The Assassin

Taiwan, 2015
Genre: Martial Arts
Language: Mandarin
Director: Hou Hsiao-Hsien
Starring: Shu Qi, Chang Chen, Zhou Yun
What's it about?
An assassin (Shu Qi) accepts a dangerous mission to kill a political leader (Chang Chen) in eighth century China, in Hou's unique and visually stunning take on the martial arts genre (adapted from a story by 9th-century writer Pei Xing) that won him the Best Director award at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. Reuniting the stars of Three Times to play lovers again, it makes for a perfect companion piece to that earlier three-part tale of thwarted desire.

The Assassin review: Fleeting battles make way for exquisitely beautiful, lingering shots
Like Hou’s cinema, taking a life of someone you loved is not something to be considered idly.


Watch a 1990 interview with Hou Hsiao-Hsien for The Movie Show:

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