GOODBYE SOUTH, GOODBYE – 1 P.M., Saturday, September 15th at the AFS Cinema (buy tickets)
Taiwan/Japan, 1996, 112 minutes, 35mm, in Mandarin and Taiwanese with English subtitles
35mm collection print courtesy of the UCLA Film & Television Archive
Low-level hoodlum Gao (Jack Kao, one of Hou’s most faithful collaborators) commutes between the mean streets of Taipei and his hometown in southern Taiwan, filling his days with gambling, cooking, and dubious get-rich-quick schemes. He dreams of striking it big with a nightclub in Shanghai, but his lofty aspirations are weighed down by bad luck and a hotheaded protégé (played by musician Lim Giong, who also spearheads the wonderfully eclectic soundtrack). This unusual take on the gangster movie—voted the best film of the ’90s by Cahiers du cinéma—has faint echoes of Scorsese, but Hou’s absurdist and melancholic vision is ultimately all his own.
The modern era felt a little strange to me. I’d filmed the past too often—my childhood memories, the “history” trilogy [A City of Sadness, The Puppetmaster, Good Men, Good Women]—and felt I needed to return to modern times to make a movie… It simply wouldn’t work to use a script. There was no plot; it was just them going from the casino to the south. We’d shoot sometimes and then look for a scene. I wanted to have an atmosphere of “live” shooting to pull things back to the present…
MILLENNIUM MAMBO – 6:30 P.M., Tuesday, September 18th at the AFS Cinema (buy tickets)
Taiwan/France, 2001, 105 minutes, 35mm, in Mandarin with English subtitles
35mm print courtesy of the Center for Moving Image Arts, Bard College
Vicky (Shu Qi, The Assassin) finds relief in the bright lights and designer drugs of the Taipei club scene, then returns to the cluttered apartment she shares with her abusive, good-for-nothing boyfriend Hao-hao (Tuan Chun-hao). A hard-edged but sensitive gangster (Jack Kao) holds out the possibility of a more lasting escape, but Vicky must first overcome her own inertia. With Millennium Mambo, Hou Hsiao-hsien kicks off the 21st century as only he can, delivering a reflective, neon-drenched mood piece that captures the excitement and ennui of contemporary urban life.
The most important problem I’m trying to solve is the point of view. I’m filming young people of the year 2000, but I’m an old man. It’s very different from the sort of energy and vitality you get with young people filming their own stories, without that generational gap. This film is always seen through the eyes of an old man. No matter how much I try to be uncritical and conceal my own opinions, it still carries the tastes and aesthetics of my generation…
Today’s kids are the internet generation. The casting director of Millennium Mambo was around the same age as the actors; he told me that the pace of their lives is so fast that it’s impossible to capture. He saw some photos of the actors two years ago and they look so different now that he can barely recognize them as the same people. Their lifestyles and appearances have completely changed.
Hou Hsiao-hsien interview extracts from Michael Berry,《煮海時光：侯孝賢的光影記憶》[Boiling the Sea: Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Memories of Shadows and Light], Taipei: INK, 2014