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Also Like Life: The Films of Hou Hsiao-hsien

Thursday, November 6, 2014
7:00 p.m. A Time to Live and a Time to Die
Hou Hsiao-hsien (Taiwan, 1985)

(Tongnian Wangshi). In this eloquently simple autobiographical film set and filmed in the village of Hou's youth, little Ah-ha's family has moved from Kwangtun Province in China to try on life in Taiwan. It is 1947. Clearly, they will never go back, at least, not in body, and not as a family. But for the boy and his siblings this is the only world, anyway, and Hou's camera patiently allows it to unfold in selected small, often humorous, sometimes mundane manifestations, knowing but not caring that a revolution is just a shot away—the shot not included in this film. Ah-ha's father, a loving but somehow distant presence (we find out why when his children do), dies; his mother, ever given to a quiet panic, will die too. His grandmother keeps superstition alive in order to keep it at bay and forgets to die. As a historian Hou is not afraid of sentiment (sentiment saves the teenage Ah-ha from the street), and nostalgia holds a place of honor: it is memory, given a generous grace.

—Judy Bloch

• Written by Hou, Chu Tien-wen. Photographed by Mark Lee Ping-bin. With Yu An-shun, Tien Feng, Mei Fang, Tang Ju-yun. (136 mins, In Mandarin and Taiwanese with English subtitles, Color, 35mm)