Growing Up With Hou Hsiao-hsien

Growing Up With Hou Hsiao-hsien

Three films about coming-of-age in a new Taiwan, part of the international traveling retrospective Also Like Life: the Films of Hou Hsiao-hsien.

Frequently, hailed the world’s greatest living filmmaker, Hou Hsiao-hsien has been hoisted on many mantles: internationally, he’s known as the progenitor of the global slow cinema movement as well as a leader of the post-modern historical film, and domestically he’s considered the figurehead of the groundbreaking Taiwan New Cinema movement. But at their core, Hou’s films reflect an original vision for film that is highly personal in its pacing and sense of time, highly collaborative in the way they’ve incorporated the talents of writer Chu Tian-wen, editor-producer Liao Ching-song, and DP Mark Lee Ping-bing. They’ve reacted to some of the harshest changes in Taiwanese history, and similarly they have very adeptly adapted to, and in many ways helped forge, many of the new developments in international film style and global art cinema production.

Since its first edition, the San Diego Asian Film Festival has exhibited some of his most dazzling historical work, including FLOWERS OF SHANGHAI and THREE TIMES when they were first released, and classics A CITY OF SADNESS and THE SANDWICH MAN when they were restored. But Hou’s innovative work on the concept of “coming-of-age” has received less attention in San Diego, and this three-film retrospective spotlights his important contributions to narrating growing up onscreen. With 35mm prints courtesy of Bard College’s Richard I. Suchenski, on the occasion of his major complete retrospective touring retrospective of Hou’s work, “Growing Up with Hou Hsiao-hsien” explores not just cinematic representations of coming of age, but also film culture of growing up in the age of Hou Hsiao-hsien.

Thurs, May 28, 7pm
(Taiwanese, 1986, 109 mins)

A county boy moves to the city with his girlfriend, only to discover that opportunities in work and love don’t come so easily. Hou’s early masterpiece portrays the portal to adulthood as a quiet train ride shuttling across miles of expectation. It’s a soft-spoken coda to childhood and a depiction of young love, compulsory military service, and inter-generational relationships that rings crushingly true.

Fri, May 29, 7pm
(Taiwanese, Mandarin, 1987, 91 mins)

In perhaps Hou Hsiao-hsien’s rarest film, a manga-loving, Kentucky Fried Chicken-working young woman keeps her family together even as its members drift into the Taipei underworld. With a pop star in its lead and a nightclub-soaked visual palette, DAUGHTER OF THE NILE was Hou’s most accessible film after he broke out internationally. And yet its portrayal of growing up’s growing alienation prefigures powerfully his later work on urban disaffect. It’s also one of his most loving, tragic portraits of family.

Sat, May 30, 7pm
(Mandarin, Japanese, 2001, 119 mins)

Superstar Shu Qi shines in Hou’s study of urban youth dancing between electronic beats and the cool, self-effacing quiet of inertia. Shu Qi plays Vicki, bouncing between two men – an aspiring DJ and a loveable gangster – but gaining a foothold on life in effervescent moments of escape. This is Hou at his most transcendent and cinematographer Mark Lee Ping-bing (In the Mood for Love, Flowers of Shanghai) at his most untouchable. Despite a cold reception upon premiering at Cannes 2001, MILLENNIUM MAMBO has quickly emerged as one of the representative and most embraced films about youth of its generation.


All films will screen on 35mm at the Museum of Photographic Arts
1649 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92103

$10 general
$8 Pac-Arts or MOPA members

Tickets available here.


Museum of Photographic Arts, Taiwan Ministry of Culture, Taiwan Academy