Flowers Of Shanghai (1998), Worth A Look, TSPDT #860

This is Hou Hsiao-Hsien in true form: long takes, little camera movement, and little to no exposition. In fact, I counted and there were only 36 cuts in the ~2 hour running time. The film takes us into the “flower” houses of the Shanghai during the late 1800’s. The flower girls are prostitutes serving their “auntie” also known as their owner. They serve local male “masters” who seem to spend all their time with the women, drinking, and smoking opium. Finally, Hou makes sure to mention that most of these houses are in the English section.

The film juxtaposes the warm and very calm sequences, like the one shown above, with the occasional outburst and drama that we only hear about. That may do something for some people, but I was more interested in how the girl served the aunties who served the masters who served the unseen English masters who kept them all under their thumb via opium. As a result, everyone under the English was fighting for pecking order that was contained in a jar held by the English.

This film is not for everyone. But if you handle it, it’s worth a look.

The Wedding Banquet (1993), Recommended

It’s so nice when you get to see a film that doesn’t equate homosexuality with crossdressing or being transgender. Director Ang Lee was too smart for that kind of stereotype with Brokeback Mountain and he doesn’t do it with this film that he made about 10 years prior.

The movie’s a lighthearted family comedy about a gay couple that puts on a farce of a wedding and subsequent banquet for the benefit of one of their parents. In the process, they bring in a girlfriend to play the wife. There is nothing here that you wouldn’t expect, but it’s good to see a film that shows that how forcing homosexuality underground hurts more than the person who is gay. It hurts those around them. In this film Wai (the son) hurts Wei Wei (the fake bride) because he robs her of finding true happiness and hurts Simon (the lover) because he robs him of the happiness he had with Wai.

Like I said before, it’s a lighthearted family comedy, but one with an important message so I recommend it.

Goodbye South, Goodbye (1996), Not Recommended

See that guy on left. That will be you if let somebody con you into watching this movie with fancy movie speak. Hou Hsaio-Hsien is a great filmmaker and you should see A City Of Sadness, A Time To Live And A Time To Die, and the first third of Three Times, but this is film is boring!!! Don’t listen to people when they say you have be on your toes to see the dark crime stuff that goes on in what seems to be a serious of banal events. That’s somebody desperately trying to get you to see what Hou probably intended, but failed to accomplish with this film. I am not going to justify this movie with a plot summary. Just avoid it.

East Asian Cinema Binge, Part IV: Tsai Ming-Liang Again

I know I have bemoaned Tsai Ming-Liang’s films before this, but I also said I was going to watch one more. The movie is called The Wayward Cloud (2005) and I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised. Ming-Liang figure out what his films needed: Explicit Sex and Musical Numbers. This is one weird movie and I wouldn’t suggest that he repeat this film for the rest of his career, but it is a fun experience. I will let the screenshots below speak for themselves.

East Asian Cinema Binge, Part III: Tsai Ming-Liang

I have seen Rebels Of The Neon God (1992), Vive L’Amour (1994), The River (1997), What Time Is It There? (2001), Goodbye, Dragon Inn (2003), and I Don’t Want To Sleep Alone (2006). I still plan to see The Wayward Cloud (2005), but at this point I can say definitively that I don’t like this man’s movies. I remember in Night Moves (1975) Gene Hackman described Eric Rohmer’s films like watching paint dry. He was wrong. Rohmer’s films are extremely lively compared to Tsai’s films. He is clearly trying to follow in the tradition of Italian Neorealism and Yasujiro Ozu like Hou Hsiao-Hsien, but he just bores me to death. Water is clearly a dominate theme, but I don’t know why. All you do is watch people do nothing or have anonymous sexual encounters. Don’t bother with this director.

Rebels Of The Neon God

The River

What Time Is It There?

Goodbye, Dragon Inn

Yi Yi (2000), Not Recommended, TSPDT #808

Clearly director Edward Yang is following in the footsteps of the Italian neorealists, but just like with A Brighter Summer Day, it’s very difficult to really understand what is going on. There is zero exposition to help orient you. I didn’t find it boring per say, but I really can’t recommend this movie.