And now, my unsolicited movie reviews:
Fuelled by the curiosity of Molly Parker’s work (who was great in the interesting-enough Bliss) years ago, picking this up on the DVD bin was a throwback. Popping this in the player seems to be a mistake, like I was exposed to some bad, Siguion-Reyna-directed, Rosanna Roces movie.
The enigma of Bill Murray is well-known, so I will not discuss this element of the film that is easily the most ease-putting. Don Johnston (Murray) is hesitantly going on a past-lovers search, prodded by a neighbor-friend on the basis of a letter claiming that Don has a son he never knew: this sort of premise can go so badly executed with the wrong cast, wrong director. This was great, dialogue-driven American cinema, with potent, powerful moments of nothing-happening. Since I already gave a prelude that I will not discuss about Bill Murray, the review stops here.
My first Hou Hsiao Hsien film, and I know now how I’ve been missing out. Chang Chen and Shu Qi make a worthy and credible twosome, and are used through the three stories in the film. They easily shine in A Time for Love (set in 1966), about an awkward pursuit of a soldier for a pool hall girl . No driving story there, but the language of gestures and scenes lovingly cling to you. The second segment, A Time for Freedom -done silent-film style- (set in 1911) dwells on a historic time in China, where Chen’s revolutionary ideals and sense of family is prioritized more than Qi’s unconfrontational bickering for him to take her out of her courtesanship. The silent-film technique is initially a bit off-putting, though the tragedy of it all swells. The 2005 segment, A Time for Youth (set in 2005), where Chen is a photo-shop attendant (armored with a Lomo LCA and a Colorpslash Camera? I scream art-trend victim!) and Qi is a rock singer with epilepsy (a tad similar to Ian Curtis’ predicament, I presume), is peppered with conteporary art/techno-speak/images that feels slightly forced. Qi lives with a jealous lesbian lover, but is now enamored by Chen. There is something cute about this one, but it fails competing with the former tales. As a collective work, Three Times, I’ll assume, may serve as a good sampling of Hou’s outstanding filmmaking, and how Shu Qi is not your average Hollywood-aspiring, Asian bimbo.
Next on the DVD shopping list: an unofficial Hou Hsiao Hsien box set. Oh, and it is such a delight to watch a foreign-language film, and afterwards, when you step out of the house, you hear the same language again, with missing subtitles.