Friday, October 1, 2010

Hsiao-hsien Hou - Xi meng ren sheng aka The Puppetmaster (1993)

Description: Hou Hsiao-hsien's masterpiece about the childhood and early adulthood of octogenerian Taiwanese puppet master and actor Li Tien-lu. This is the second part of a trilogy about Taiwanese life in the 20th century, covering all but the first few years of the Japanese occupation of Taiwan (1895-1945). Hou's preference for filming entire scenes in long takes from fixed camera angles and for eschewing close-ups has never been as masterfully employed and modulated as it is here--some of the landscape shots are breathtaking. The film alternates between re-created scenes from Li's life, Li speaking directly to the camera about his past, and extracts from his puppet and stage performances, creating a layered density in the narrative that does full justice to the complexity and poetry of Hou's investigation

The second installment of Hou Hsiao-Hsien's historical trilogy (which also includes A CITY OF SADNESS and GOOD MEN, GOOD WOMEN), THE PUPPETMASTER is based on the life of famed Chinese puppet master Li Tien-Lu. Spanning the years 1909 to 1945 and covering major historical events in China's occupation by the Japanese, the film is epic in scope, yet highly personal in focus. Influenced by Chinese painting and the aesthetic concept of "liu-pai" (the idea that what is visible within the frame can open the mind to the world that extends beyond its parameters), the PUPPETMASTER is visually stunning.

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