HHH – Un Portrait de Hou Hsiao Hsien

By Olivier Assayas

“Hou Hsiao-Hsien is an international treasure. His films are among the most inspiring of the last 30 years.“ Jim Jarmusch

Magnificently shot with a hand held camera that never leaves Hou Hsiao Hsien’s side, Oliver Assayas plunges into the fascinating past of this renowned Taiwanese director. Returning to the places where Hsiao Hsien grew up, we meet his former friends and people on the streets of Taipei and in the countryside, bringing us directly to the roots of his stories and cinema. Moving encounters with his grandfather, colleagues and his family create a beautiful exploration of the early days of the Taiwanese New Wave.

Hou Hsiao-Hsien, whose new film is currently in distribution by the Filmmuseum Amsterdam, is among Taiwan's most influential late-20th-century filmmakers. His work, such as, “A Time to Live and a Time to Die” (1985) and “The Puppetmaster” (1993), are inseparably linked with the history of Taiwan, and to his own evolution. “While shooting this film (“Tong Nien Wang Shi”, “A Time to Live and a Time to Die”) I was criticized a lot. The film unmasks the slogans of the counter-attack and of the "Fight to conquer back Chinese mainland" as a lie and illusion, which can't be realized.

It was clear to me, that I would get political pressure... the Taiwanese history was always marked by suppression... what I would like to express most by my films is the dignity of the long-time suppressed Taiwanese people. Through the medium of cinema, I would like to give them attention.... I knew that this was risky...” (Hou Hsiao Hsien).

He talks with the same simplicity and tenderness about his work with actors. There are no rehearsals and he doesn’t want any text to be memorized beforehand. Only the situation and story count. Actors use their own words. Everything develops out of the moment, focusing on the relationships and the act of listening, talking and reacting to each other. Most of the time, only one or two takes are sufficient. If it doesn’t work, shooting is postponed to the next day….

An elegant, delightful and in-depth portrait of one of the great filmmakers of our time.