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Three Times, April 27

49th San Francisco International Film Festival at PFA

Thursday, April 27, 2006
8:30 p.m. Three Times
Hou Hsiao-hsien (Taiwan, 2005)

(Zui hao de shiguang). Three different time periods, two lead roles, one eternal love. A Proust novel set to the intricate rhythms and becalmed beauty of director Hou Hsiao-hsien's color-coded aesthetic, his newest film moves across the history of Taiwan—and the arc of the director's career—to explore the memory of love in the best and worst of times. It's "A Time for Love" when Three Times opens in a 1960s pool hall, where The Platters are on the jukebox, the glamorous Shu Qi sports tight lime-colored pants, a cool Chang Chen blows smoke in the air, and a dark red ball rolls down a forest-green pool table. "A Time for Freedom" travels backwards to 1911, the year China gained independence. Shu is a teahouse courtesan in love with Chang, a regular customer ready to join the revolution. Possessing the rosewood-colored, candlelit setting of Hou's Flowers of Shanghai (SFIFF 1999), this second episode is designed as a silent film (a decision engendered by the actors' struggles with classic Mandarin), complete with intertitles and accompanying music. Set in modern-day Taipei in the neon realm of Hou's Millenium Mambo (SFIFF 2002), the final segment, "A Time for Youth," follows Shu as a disheveled singer balancing the loves of a woman and a man (Chang). Aided by the star wattage of his two leads, Hou brings these disparate times to life through an assortment of filming aesthetics (most culled from moments in his own career) and pays tribute to the resilience of Taiwan and the lovers that exist within its borders.

—Jason Sanders

• Written by Chu Tien-een. Photographed by Mark Lee. With Shu Qi, Chang Chen, Mei Fang, Di Mei. (139 mins)