Shown in the ‘New Wave’ Section of the “A Century of Chinese Cinema” in the BFI: British Film Institute in Southbank, this film was the perfect portrait of life.

Director Hou Hsiao Hsien

Director Hou Hsiao Hsien

I’ve never ever seen such a film before that was so much connected with the viewer as much as this was. It had so much power in its characters that when they laughed the viewers laughed, when they cried the viewers cried and when the characters died out, the viewers felt as if they had lost some one very dear to them.


This must be Director Hou Hsiao Hsien’s first masterpiece, and it is definitely simple film making and simple story telling at its best. All the characters are so interlinked that one cannot be singled out from the other. The cinematography is so beautiful that one cannot help but think how simple and perfect it is at the same time. There is nothing fancy at all in the use of the camera and each shot is artistically and very masterfully composed. Even the dialogue delivery is very calm and contained that every word can be heard and understood. The portrayal of the rural city is very real, the people busy in their daily life and the surrounding are such that makes the viewer be a part of it and a part of that time. Every passing moment in the film surpasses perfection itself and Director Hou Hsiao Hsien has perfectly shown the relationship between the filmmaker and the subject.


Director Hou Hsiao Hsien tells his story in this film starting from his childhood with the freedom that he had and the love that he possessed form others, the adventurous times of his school days, the careless times of his youth spent in misfits and the times till he lost his most beloveds in his life. Hou Hsia Hsien tells the story in such a manner that it grips the heart and connects the viewers with him. It’s a nostalgic tale to which any one belonging to any age can connect him/herself. It is such a story that keeps making one want to know more and more right till the end.


Being a Taiwanese, Hou Hsiao Hsien has also touched the delicate subject of Taiwan’s separation from Mainland China. The subject has been very carefully touched upon by the director, without putting in any political or cultural motives. One of the characters which has grown quite old always reminisces about the past, having no knowledge of the separation anymore always longs for returning to the lost glory, which for it has always been very near to heart.

a time to live and a time to die

There are scenes in the film which while watching, one cannot help but feel sympathetic. This film has the potential of making one smile, sit back, relax and think of one’s own past times of childhood and youth. It can also take one to the verge of crying out loud and feeling extremely sad. Director Hou Hsia Hsien is a form of perfection which should be observed once in life.

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