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Eccentric Futures-Video Feature

Wednesday, March 13, 1996
The Puppetmaster
Hou Hsiao-hsien Taiwan, 1990

(Hsimeng rensheng). The Puppetmaster is the second in the Hou Hsiao-hsien trilogy (see March 9). Hou masterfully constructs a dramatic film that at times plays as documentary in its rendering of the life story of Li Tien-lu, real-life puppetmaster and national treasure, and in recreating thirty years of Taiwanese history. No documentary, however, is as seamless in its beauty. "Hou punctuates the lyrical, contemplative mood of the film with Li's own feisty direct address to the camera. Gracefully shifting from scenes of absolute devotion to sly rebellion, Hou conjures a rich and moving portrait of one man's relationship to family and nationhood. The director's groundbreaking style has opened up new ways of imagining documentary and dramatic cinema. Hou has crafted a rich testimony, sometimes disorienting but always engaging, to the shifting territories of drama and life." (Lawrence Chua)

• Written by Wu Nien-jen, Chu Tien-wen. Photographed by Lee Pin-bing. With Li Tien-lu, Lin Chung, Cheng Kuei-chung, Hung Liu. (143 [correction: 137] mins, In Chinese with English subtitles, Color, 35mm)