|City of Sadness|
I've seen City of Sadness many times without putting into words just what is so breathtaking about it. Last night I saw it again at DOC Films at the University of Chicago, and this time I decided to get to the bottom of it. (Note: three related films show at DOC in the next several days: Good Men, Good Women on Nov 11 at 7 pm; Flowers of Shanghai on Nov 18 at 7 pm; and HHH: A Portrait of Hou Hsiao-Hsien on Nov 21 at 7 pm; see the DOC schedule.)
|Photo of Keelung from Adrian Ling blog echoes shots in |
City of Sadness
In interspersed shots reminiscent of Ozu, HHH reminds us again and again that, no matter how big the historical forces that are bearing down on the characters, their physical environment is itself a massive fact.
A Place Apart
I certainly enjoyed the way City of Sadness portrayed Taiwan as a place apart. This feels particularly true at the end of WWII, as Japan leaves Taiwan and the Mainlanders come to take control. One of the characters says, "Ho pitiful we are on this island: first the Japanese, then the Mainlanders . . . ."
During the time I lived in Taiwan, the "party line" provided that nothing good could be said about Japan or Japanese culture, particularly as it related to the period of Japanese control over Taiwan. City of Sadness makes it clear that the story is a little more complicated than that. It clearly shows the friendship between the Lins and the family of the Japanese teacher. More than anything, the way Hinomi interacts with Shizuko -- language, manners -- shows how much Japanese culture was an integral part of the lives of many people at the time.
I have a very strong impression of Taiwan as a place where order is respected, but also as a place where the government is taken with a grain of salt.
|Hou Hsiao-hsien and Li Tianlu on location for City of Sadness|
(See Kinoimages blog)
(It made me think of a book I read in college -- Primitive Rebels: Studies in Archaic Forms of Social Movement in the 19th and 20th Centuries -- by Eric Hobsbawm, one of the big thinkers on European social history.)
This view of "gangsterhood" surely ennobles the many fight scenes in the film -- as when Ah-Ga goes after the guys from Shanghai with a short sword. Scenes worthy of Kurosawa.
And more . . .
I could go on and on about City of Sadness: about everything from the sound of slippers scraping across the floor to the history of the 228 incident that the film illuminates; about the similarities between Wen-ching, who could hear until he was 8, and Oskar in The Tin Drum, who stopped growing when he was 6 (i.e. when the war started); about the funeral scene, and the wedding scene; about the pitch-perfect soundtrack.
But most of all, I'm looking forward to seeing the other films in the trilogy -- The Puppetmaster and Good Men, Good Women -- and connecting the dots.
More about Taipei c. 1979 . . . .
(See A Force for Peace: Getting to Know Iran Through Film)
(See Long Life, Connected Lives)
(See Days for Looking at the Sea )
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