Sunday, March 8, 2015

"Also Like Life: The Films of Hou Hsiao-Hsien" at Northwest Film Forum, Grand Illusion Cinema & Scarecrow Video: Mar 19 - Apr 7

What will likely prove to be the repertory cinema event of the year begins the third week of March with both The Grand Illusion and Northwest Film Forum presenting the touring retrospective of one of the defining voices of the Taiwanese New Wave, "Also Like Life: The Films of Hou Hsiao-Hsien". Named director of the decade in a polls conducted by Film Comment and The Village Voice at the close of the 20th Century, the Museum of the Moving Image, "Hou Hsiao-Hsien: In Search of Lost Time" and their symposium introduction still stands as the most succinct tacking of the paradox of this revered, yet rarely seen director: "It’s worth questioning, however, what Hou Hsiao-Hsien's admittedly rarefied brand of art cinema means to filmmaking and film history—even history itself —if he's not being seen anywhere but on the festival circuit. Just how can we support such grand claims for his importance, when he’s preaching to a ready choir and often empty pews? The answer is easy: wedding political filmmaking with a technique at once naturalistic and highly aestheticized, Hou Hsiao-Hsien has made films that wrestle variously, and either directly or metaphorically, with personal and national histories, the struggles between Taiwan and Chinese nationalism, the encroachment of capital on an ever-evolving way of life, and, most recently, the legacy of cinema itself. 'Essential viewing' couldn’t be more aptly applied to the works of any other living director,".

Kent Jones' chronicling of Hou's ascendency for Film Comment, from cult phenomenon to arthouse favorite and established auteur over the decade of the late 80's to 90's, "Cinema with a Roof Over its Head: Hou Hsiao-Hsien" probes the complex factors involved in how it is that a director as critically lauded as Hou Hsiao-Hsien remains largely unseen to this day. Foremost among them is that Hou's depiction of time and space conveyed through depth, color and hypnotically repeated motifs eschews being quantified through populist criteria. Even those outfitted with an understanding of the past half-Century of Asian film, where western paradigms can occasionally be applied to fill in our gaps in knowledge, in the case of Hou Hsiao-Hsien's filmmography the bridge to meaning still requires intellectual effort. A facilitative resource in bridging that expanse, the Senses of Cinema archives host a in-depth Hou Hsiao-Hsien spotlight featuring lengthy and analytic articles on the active visual minimalism of his cinema, "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s Optics of Ephemerality", his homage of sorts to Yasujiro Ozu's love of "Situations Over Stories: Café Lumière & Hou Hsiao-Hsien", the nuanced depiction of different eras through "The Complexity of Minimalism: Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s Three Times" and his intimate observations on the tribulations of modern, urban, Taiwanese women, "Hou Hsiou-Hsien’s Urban Female Youth Trilogy". The night before the series' kickoff, Scarecrow Video will be presenting a rare screening of the director's early feature "The Boys from Fengkuei" as part of their concurrently running sidebar of Hou Hsiao-Hsien's lesser known works. The film will be introduced by local critic and Asian cinema scholar Sean Gilman, and as with the rest of Scarecrow's monthly Screening Room calendar, admission is free. Considerately, memberships at both Northwest Film Forum and The Grand Illusion apply to ticket purchases at either venue for the full series.