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Also Like Life: The Films of Hou Hsiao-hsien

Saturday, November 1, 2014
8:15 p.m. A Summer at Grandpa's
Hou Hsiao-hsien (Taiwan, 1984)

(Dongdong de Jiaqi). Two city kids spend a summer in the countryside while their mother is hospitalized in Hou Hsiao-hsien’s gentle, assured work, which along with The Boys of Fengkuei (screening 10.28.14) announced the arrival of a major talent. Bundled off with their droopy uncle to the rural home of their busy grandfather, a young brother and sister quickly try to adapt to their slower—much slower—surroundings, even trading in a remote-control toy car for a pet turtle (much to the delight of the neighboring kids, who promptly show up with more turtles to trade). Riverside idylls, hallway races, and adolescent pranks fill the day, with many scenes seemingly culled from childhood memories, but this is no typically sunny summer’s tale; off to the side remains a different, darker adult world, where thugs, madwomen, unwanted pregnancies, and even death lurks. “Hou manages the difficult task of maintaining a child’s point of view,” wrote J. Hoberman, “without ever seeming cute or unduly nostalgic.” “A seductive but unsentimental montage . . . Gentle, deeply humane and totally assured,” noted Tony Rayns. After this, Hou—and New Taiwanese Cinema—had arrived.

—Jason Sanders

• Written by Hou, Chu Tien-wen. Photographed by Chen Kun-hou. With Wang Chi-kuang, Li Shu-chen, Ku Chun, Mei Fang. (98 mins, In Taiwanese and Mandarin with English titles, Color, 35mm)