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Also Like Life: The Films of Hou Hsiao-hsien

Friday, October 10, 2014
9:00 p.m. Cute Girl
Hou Hsiao-hsien (Taiwan, 1980)

(Jiushi Liuliu, a.k.a. Lovable You). Hou Hsiao-hsien made his unlikely feature debut with this breezy romantic comedy starring Hong Kong singer Kenny Bee and Taiwanese pop diva Feng Fei-fei. A tycoon’s daughter (Feng) is arranged to be married to another tycoon’s son, but she is soon distracted by the charming, more down-to-earth Daigang (Bee); misunderstandings, class divisions, and romance naturally follow. Hou chronicles their relationship with as much interest as he can muster, interspersing the commercial demands of the day—comedy bits, some spectacular polyester-based eighties fashion (Feng’s nickname as “Queen of Hats” is on full display), and many Canto-pop-driven montages—with glimpses of his own style, such as a preoccupation with child nonactors and some lingering glimpses of the rural countryside, which stands in direct contrast to the capital’s bustling, overcrowded chaos. A time capsule of Taiwanese pop culture and the era’s low-budget, star-driven approach to filmmaking, Cute Girl still holds interest for its glimpses of an emerging, industrialized Taipei, and as the beginning of Hou’s career.

—Jason Sanders

• Written by Hou. Photographed by Chen Kun-hou. With Kenny Bee, Feng Fei-fei, Anthony Chan. (90 mins, In Mandarin with English subtitles, Color, 'Scope, 35mm)