If you’re asking that question, then a further question arises: What on earth are you doing here at Reverse Shot? Then again, if you have stumbled here, stay a while, peruse our brand new 23rd symposium and all (well…most) of your questions will be answered.
With the pleasures of the magnificent Flight of the Red Balloon still floating in our heads, we feel the time is right for a comprehensive look back at one of the best and most aesthetically important filmmakers of the past few decades: Hou Hsiao-hsien. He’s been written about reverently by some of our most influential film writers, like Kent Jones and David Bordwell, and even documented in a feature film by Olivier Assayas (HHH: A Portrait of Hou Hsiao-hsien), but the Taiwanese filmmaker hasn’t yet received the proper critical full-career consideration, and certainly not from Reverse Shot—even though films such as Goodbye South, Goodbye, Flowers of Shanghai, Millennium Mambo (which we showed at 2006’s second annual Reverse Shot Presents), and Three Times routinely turn up on lists of our writers’ favorite films of recent years. We have a sneaking suspicion that come this January Flight of the Red Balloon will find a prominent place in our year-end reporting for 2008 as well.
In 1988 a group of international critics voted Hou “one of the three directors most crucial to the future of cinema,” and in another survey completed by Film Comment and the Village Voice at the end of the Nineties, he was named “director of the decade.” It’s worth questioning, however, what his admittedly rarefied brand of art cinema means to filmmaking and film history—even history itself —if he’s not selling tickets anywhere but on the festival circuit. Just how can we support such grand claims for his importance, when he’s preaching to a ready choir and largely empty pews?
And then dive into the issue itself.
Happy first day of autumn, everyone!