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Also Like Life: The Films of Hou Hsiao-hsien

Friday, November 21, 2014
9:00 p.m. Goodbye South, Goodbye
Hou Hsiao-hsien (Taiwan, 1996)

(Nan guo zai jian, nan guo). Leaving Taiwan's past as a subject to discover a present of neon signs, karaoke bars, and aimless gangsters, Hou disperses the milieu and plot of a Hong Kong crime film into his own cinematic truth, lingering in the moments between to expose everyday, almost absurd normality. Journeying through southern Taiwan from one poorly conceived scam to another, the thirtysomething Kao, his teenage protégé Flathead, and their girlfriends Hsi and Pretzel are "gangsters" in name only, spending more time falling asleep, playing Nintendo, or staring slack-jawed out train windows than experiencing glamorous shootouts or obscene wealth. More clueless failures than violent outcasts, they want to get rich quick like everyone else, but are just too confused or human to be any good at it. Taiwanese pop star Lim Giong (Flathead) contributes the impressive soundtrack, but the film is controlled and framed by its southern Taiwanese landscape viewed from train windows or alongside paved roads, unveiling the possibilities and whispers of routes the characters remain hopelessly unable, or unwilling, to take.

—Jason Sanders

• Written by Chu Tien-wen, based on a story by Hsi Hsiang, Jack Kao. Photographed by Mark Lee Ping-bin, Chen Hwai-en. With Jack Kao, Hsu Kuei-ying, Lim Giong, Annie Shizuka Inoh. (112 mins, In Mandarin and Taiwanese with English subtitles, Color, 35mm)