Introduction: Hou Hsiao-Hsien


Coming in to my next retrospective series I find myself at a slight disadvantage over my previous outings. As I approach the films of Hou Hsiao-Hsien, I know the type of quiet introspection, lyrical camera movements, soft compositions, and the quiet understated beauty of reflections and light, but I have not yet experience enough of his work to have a handle on Hou’s innermost philosophies. I count films such as Flight of the Red Balloon, Three Times, and Café Lumiere amongst my favorite works of art. These are not only astounding cinematic achievements, but prime case studies for the argument of film’s importance in the world of art. I know of his affinity for Ozu, and would assume a positive viewpoint of humanity is going to be a prevalent thread in his body of work.

My intense love for cinema has nothing to do with the adeptness of the storytelling techniques employed, grandiose performances from silly actors, self congratulatory awards, or the capacity it has to entertain. I see cinema as a reflexive and versatile tool for exploring the human condition. Based on my limited exposure, I find that Hou is a director that is tune with the resonant frequencies of his innermost thoughts and what it is to be a confused and alienated member of humanity. Those are the filmmakers that are worth my time. Those are the ones that will be explored and studied for generations.

I look forward to sharing my passing thoughts and emotional responses to Hou’s work as we explore him together. I hope we can all get lost in the soft Parisian light that dances through the trees and casts its nostalgic reflections on train windows, illuminating the lost world of a bygone era on the faces of weary commuters in Flight of the Red Balloon. I hope we can all linger in the painful memories of unrequited love and feel our way through the stories and eras of Three Times. I’m looking forward to embarking on this journey, and I hope that we can discover the depth and breadth of his body of work together as I pay him a long overdue extended visit.

Matthew Blevins

Behind me you see the empty bookshelves that my obsession with film has caused. Film teaches me most of the important concepts of life, such as cynicism, beauty, ugliness, subversion of societal norms, and what it is to be a tortured member of humanity. My passion for the medium is an important part of who I am as I stumble through existence in a desperate and frantic search for objective truths.
  • Anonymous

    So have you not seen much of his pre-2000s work? The Time to Live and the Time to Die, The Puppetmaster, and Flowers of Shanghai are especially sublime. I look forward to your words on them.

  • Christopher Misch

    Hou Hsiao-Hsien is one of my favourites, so looking forward to this!

  • Matthew Blevins

    Nope, I have only seen three of his post 2000 films.  This is new and exciting territory, and a journey I have been meaning to take for a long while now.